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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Tasmania

Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests

While the summer of 2021/22 has been a mild fire season in the east of the country, there have been a small number of significant fires in lutruwita/ Tasmania that have threatened World Heritage Areas (including one that threatened an incredibly significant Huon pine forest). This is because the west of that state has been experiencing a prolonged and extreme drought, with some areas receiving their lowest rainfall on record.

As reported recently in The Conversation, “this drought fits an observed drying trend across the state, which will worsen due to climate change. This is very bad news for the ancient wilderness in the state’s World Heritage Area, where the lineage of some tree species stretch back 150 million years to the supercontinent Gondwana’.

The drying trend has seen a steady increase in bushfires ignited by lightning, imperilling the survival of Tasmania’s Gondwanan legacy, and raising profound fire management challenges.’ Continue reading “Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests”

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”

Fires in Tasmanian World Heritage Areas

Back in 2019, Tasmania/ lutruwita was badly impacted by wildfires (check here for a diary of those fires). With much of south eastern Australia experiencing a La Nina mild summer, the forecast is for a ‘mild’ season across most of the south east.

But following lightning storms over the weekend of December 18 and 19, 2021, a number of fires have started in remote World Heritage Areas in Tasmania/ lutruwita. It has been noted that since the year 2000, there has been an increase in the number of lightning-caused fires and an increase in the average size of the fires in Tasmania, “resulting in a marked increase in the area burnt”.

This page will track significant fires on public lands in Tasmania during the summer of 2021/22.

Continue reading “Fires in Tasmanian World Heritage Areas”

A Rifle Range on Maggs Mountain?

Many remote area walkers and fishers access the Central Plateau of Tasmania/lutruwita via the Mersey Forest and Maggs Roads, which lead to the trailheads for places like the Walls of Jerusalem, Arm River Track, Chalice Lake and Cathedral Mountain, etc.

There is a proposal to place a high powered rifle range on top of Maggs Mountain (900m), which is located above Lake Rowallan and across the valley from Clumner Bluff to the east and the February Plains to the west.

Meander Valley Council needs to decide whether to grant approval. You have until 5pm on Monday 29 November to put in a submission expressing your view on the proposal.

Continue reading “A Rifle Range on Maggs Mountain?”

‘Wildfires, deforestation and global heating turn 10 Unesco forests into carbon sources’

A recent report looked into the impacts of climate change and other human activity on protected areas. It was pretty much as you would expect – these areas, protected because of their special values, are now at risk. According to various media stories (for instance this one in The Guardian) ‘Forests in at least 10 Unesco world heritage sites have become net sources of carbon since the turn of the millennium due to wildfires, deforestation and global heating’.

While this report takes a global perspective, it does contain details on two Australian systems – the Greater Blue Mountains Area and Tasmanian World Heritage Area – there are also some details relevant more broadly to protected areas in mountain areas of south eastern Australia.

Continue reading “‘Wildfires, deforestation and global heating turn 10 Unesco forests into carbon sources’”

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”

Tourism & outdoor industry stands up for forests

The forests of north east Tasmania are like nowhere else on Earth. From the glacial refugia forests of the Blue Tier holding the tallest flowering plants on earth, to the Gondwanic remnant forests around the Blue Derby mountain bike trails, these forests are under increasing threat from logging.

The campaign to protect these forests in recent times has been driven by locals involved in ecotourism and outdoor adventures like mountain bike riding. It has been a great example of people standing up for the places that they love.

Last week, more than 160 other tourism bodies, signed an open letter to the State Premier, the Minister for Tourism, Hospitality and Events and the Minister for Climate Change regarding the economic and environmental implications of logging carbon-rich Gondwana remnant forests in the North-East of Tasmania. These forests are within proximity of the world-famous Blue Derby bike tracks.

Continue reading “Tourism & outdoor industry stands up for forests”

Fire risk declines as forests get older

There is a long debate about whether logging tall wet Eucalypt forests increases or decreases the flammability of forests. On an intuitive level, it makes sense that allowing forests to become older will make them less flammable: over time the understorey thins out, the canopy closes in and creates a moister micro climate, and fire is less likely to climb up into the crown. In contrast, an area that has been logged will be filled with dense regrowth of highly flammable saplings and be exposed to the drying effect of sun and wind.

This is confirmed on a regular basis by research. New work considers the two common models which are used to describe how fire risk changes over time as the forest grows. The models are the ‘moisture model’, where fire risk initially increases, then decreases, as a stand develops after a fire, and the ‘Olson model’, where fire risk increases as a function of time since previous fire.

This new report – called Fire risk and severity decline with stand development in Tasmanian giant Eucalyptus forest – suggests that the ‘moisture model’ is correct in tall wet forests, and that over time fire risk is reduced.

Continue reading “Fire risk declines as forests get older”

A cable car to Dove Lake?

The following story comes from the Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA).

‘Everybody had thought that the most preposterous aspect of the 2016 Cradle Mountain Master Plan – the cableway from the visitor centre to Dove Lake – had long been forgotten. Unfortunately the nightmare of another major intrusion into the naturalness of Cradle Valley is turning into reality with the Coordinator General recently announcing it to the annual conference of the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania as a fait accompli.

Continue reading “A cable car to Dove Lake?”

National Threatened Species Day 2021

Every year on September 7, National Threatened Species Day is commemorated across Australia to raise awareness of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

There are currently 457 species of fauna and 1348 species of flora listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered under Australia’s Environment and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Many of these are found nowhere else in the world.

This is a summary of some of the threats facing mountain species.

Continue reading “National Threatened Species Day 2021”

Feasibility study into Tyndall Range walk released

In 2019, the Tasmanian premier, Will Hodgman, announced that ‘Tasmania’s wild West Coast’ had been chosen as the preferred location for the state’s next ‘Iconic Walk’.

The area selected is the remote Tyndall Range. This ‘iconic walk’ will be similar to the Overland and Three Capes Tracks, where private hut networks have been built and tours are run by commercial operators.

The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (P&WS) has announced that the ‘findings of a feasibility study into a new overnight experience in the Tyndall Range on Tasmania’s west coast ‘proves the proposal is feasible and will deliver a new and iconic multi-day walking experience’.

Continue reading “Feasibility study into Tyndall Range walk released”

UNESCO pushes back against the privatisation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area 

Many thousands of people campaigned for years to see the best areas of wild Tasmania protected in national parks, World Heritage and other conservation reserves. However, the current Liberal state government continues its efforts to open up these areas to commercial development via tourism ventures.

While the plans for a ‘helicopter’ tourism venture at Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau has been generating a lot of community opposition, a range of other, lesser known projects are also being pursued by a number of developers.

There has been a recent meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which considered the ‘In Danger’ listing of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian government’s efforts to avoid this listing received a huge amount of coverage. There was another issue which got far less coverage, but which includes some much better news.

UNESCO has put the government on notice over it’s privatisation agenda: any development that impacts upon the World Heritage Area’s Outstanding Universal Values must be referred back to the Committee for review.

Continue reading “UNESCO pushes back against the privatisation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area “

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