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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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south west TAS

Tasmania’s south-west threatened by drought and fire

Mountain Journal has often reported on the threats to remnant ancient forests in lutruwita/ Tasmania. Vegetation that dates back to the time when Australia was a part of the Gondwana super continent remain in mountain and low land areas in the centre and west of the state, and are under threat from climate change driven fire regimes.

For instance, this story reports on the drying trend that has been noted in south western Tasmania which has seen a steady increase in bushfires ignited by lightning, threatening the survival of Tasmania’s Gondwanan legacy.

A recent story from Zoe Kean, published on the Tasmanian Inquirer website (available here) highlights the threats to these vegetation communities.

Continue reading “Tasmania’s south-west threatened by drought and fire”

Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association calls for halt on developments within World Heritage Areas

The South Coast Track travels 85k m from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek along the coastline of south western lutruwita/ Tasmania. It traverses wild beaches and mountains and feels like one of the most remote places on earth. The landscape that the track passes through is a part of the massive Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) that protects most of the south west of the state.

As part of the state government’s agenda to see more private development within World Heritage and national parks, a seven-day guided walk has been proposed for the South Coast Track, which would include six walkers’ privately operated huts built.

Continue reading “Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association calls for halt on developments within World Heritage Areas”

Huon Pine reserve threatened by fire

There is currently a bushfire burning at Olegas Bluff within the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in south western lutruwita/ Tasmania.

The Parks and Wildlife Service is undertaking air-based suppression works in the area. The fire is not yet contained and the cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

The most disturbing aspect of this fire is that it threatens the Truchanas Pine Forest, which contains globally significant Huon Pine trees.

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Fires in south west Tasmania

A number of small fires are burning in World Heritage Areas in lutruwita/ Tasmania. At this point details on each fire is fairly scare. This post will be updated as extra details arrive. Initial post: JAN 31, 2022.

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Progress on a fire management plan for the TAS World Heritage Area

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) is one of the largest conservation areas in Australia, covering 15,800 km², or almost 25% of lutruwita/ Tasmania. It contains huge areas of wild landscape.

Sadly, fire is a huge threat to many vegetation communities in the TWWHA which are fire sensitive, particularly in the context of a changing climate.

We know that climate change fueled fire regimes threaten the TWWHA. For instance, the amount of vegetation burnt by fires caused by lightning strikes in Tasmania’s world heritage area has increased dramatically this century, according to research led by the University of Tasmania.

Following public consultation in 2020, plans for managing fire in the TWWHA are being developed. The Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA) says ‘we are pleased to see belated progress towards the development of a Fire Management Plan for the TWWHA’.

Continue reading “Progress on a fire management plan for the TAS World Heritage Area”

Chasing Giant Trees in lutruwita/ Tasmania

Carl Hansen and Jan Corigliano report on a recent mission to catalogue newly discovered forest giants.

This story first appeared in the Mountain Journal print magazine for 2021 (available here).

The tallest and biggest living things in the world are trees. While the biggest and tallest are the well-known Coast Redwoods of California, the towering Mountain Ash (Eucalpytus Regnans) of Victoria and Tasmania have largely escaped the limelight, despite being the tallest trees in the southern hemisphere.

In the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, to the west of the Florentine River in the vicinity of McLeod’s Creek, grows a patch of extremely tall forest unmatched in extent and integrity in Australia. Remote, rugged and barely visited by Europeans, it contains 29 LiDAR-identified “‘hits’ over 85 meters tall. In recent years, the advent of LiDAR (a 3D scan of tree heights from a small plane) has uncovered many previously undiscovered giant trees. But what’s shown on LiDAR doesn’t always stack up with what’s on the ground, so ground surveys must be done in order to see how big the trees really are.

Continue reading “Chasing Giant Trees in lutruwita/ Tasmania”

Lessons from the Tasmanian fires of 2018/19: state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’

Over the summer of 2018/19 huge fires burnt across Tasmania. An independent review of Tasmania’s management of the summer bushfires was released in August 2019. It found inadequacies in the response to the fire burning near Geeveston, and revealed that crews withdrew from the Gell River fire in Tasmania’s southwest in the mistaken belief it was out. The fire then expanded again and became out of control.

The report made a series of recommendations

Now, a comprehensive study examining the 2018/19 and the experience of authorities and affected groups by Insurance Group Zurich has found that the state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’.

“Since the turn of the millennium, climate change and land use change have converged to bring about a new fire regime in Tasmania,” Zurich’s first Australian Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) report said.

More than two thousand dry lightning strikes hit the state during that summer, igniting 70 fires that formed into four massive fire complexes. Over 95,000 hectares of protected land was burnt.

Continue reading “Lessons from the Tasmanian fires of 2018/19: state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’”

Increase in lightning strikes expected to ignite more wildfires

Lightning strikes are one of the main causes of wildfire in Australia. As the planet’s temperature warms, the frequency of lightning strikes is expected to grow with it.

Currently, lightning strikes the earth’s surface nearly eight million times a day. This number is expected to ‘dramatically increase’ as global temperatures rise, according to a study published by Science. The U.S., for example, could experience a 50% increase in the number of lightning strikes by the end of the century, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.

This increase is already being felt in Australia and has implications for how we plan for, and fight fire. Because they start from a single point, lightning caused fires are initially small and can be easily contained before they turn into blazes, if there are ground crews or planes or helicopters available. As was shown by last summer’s fires, in a bad season, we simply don’t have enough resources to do this.

Continue reading “Increase in lightning strikes expected to ignite more wildfires”

A Fire Management Plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) is a World Heritage Site in Tasmania. It is one of the largest conservation areas in Australia, covering 15,800 km², or almost 20% of lutruwita/ Tasmania. It is also one of the last great expanses of temperate wilderness in the world.

In recent summer’s, significant sections of the TWWHA have been devastated by bushfires. The 2018/19 fires were especially destructive.

Fire is perhaps the greatest challenge for the management of the TWWHA, particularly in the context of climate change. With the September 2020 release by the Parks and Wildlife Service of a range of discussion papers for public comment, the state is moving towards the development of a Fire Management Plan for the TWWHA, as recommended by the 2016 report by Tony Press (Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Bushfire and Climate Change Research Project) and prescribed by the 2016 TWWHA Management Plan. 

How have the papers been received by conservationists?

Continue reading “A Fire Management Plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area”

Wildfires in remote Tasmania

It’s been an absolutely brutal fire season around the country, and we are not even into full summer yet. Among the horror list of lost lives, homes and other infrastructure, millions of animals killed, damage to water catchments and farmland, there has also been devastating impacts on wild places.

Rainforest that ‘is not meant to burn’ has been on fire in northern NSW and QLD, the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains have been hammered, the Budawang Ranges in NSW have been badly burnt, and there are enormous and ‘not yet under control’ fires in the mountain foothills of East Gippsland.

While there were devastating fires in Tasmania last summer, so far, the mountains in that state have been spared fires. Perhaps the situation is now changing, with four fires in remote areas recently started through lightning strike. 

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Independent review of the management of 2018/19 Tasmanian fires

Over the summer of 2018/19 huge fires burnt across Tasmania. An independent review of Tasmania’s management of the summer bushfires has just been released. It found inadequacies in the response to a fire burning near Geeveston, and revealed that crews withdrew from the Gell River fire in Tasmania’s southwest in the mistaken belief it was out. The fire then expanded again and became out of control.

It makes a series of recommendations for the fire services and government, including a proposal to re-establish a volunteer remote area firefighter group. The report, from the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) also gives an update on the ecological impacts of the fires. An earlier ecological assessment is here.

Continue reading “Independent review of the management of 2018/19 Tasmanian fires”

TAS fire update – and vegetation impact assessment

Bushfires have burnt more than 90,000 hectares of land in Tasmania this summer. The Gell River fire in the south west is still burning. There have been fears expressed that large areas of fire sensitive vegetation have been impacted. An initial desk top assessment carried out by researchers at the University of Tasmania suggested that the areas of these vegetation types affected was very small.

Now the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service has provided an update on what types of vegetation was involved in the fires and the likely impacts on what they define as ‘Extreme fire sensitive communities’. Their assessment is that very small areas of these communities was impacted.

Continue reading “TAS fire update – and vegetation impact assessment”

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