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Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Victorian Alps

There is still time to protect the Little Dargo

The fires of 2019/20 burnt huge areas of north eastern Victoria. The remaining unburnt forests are more important than ever. One of these areas lies in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, just south of Mt Hotham. It is a pristine area, without roads, and containing mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash. It is an area of state forest that lies right next to the Alpine National Park.

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest in the upper Little Dargo River, probably this spring. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time. Extensive roading networks will be needed to access the coupes.

One coupe has already been logged. The remaining coupes have not yet been scheduled for harvesting. There is still time to stop this ecological disaster – if we act now.

Continue reading “There is still time to protect the Little Dargo”

Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes

As we head towards winter, now is the time to think about next summer and the fires that may come after two wet, mild years. There are many things we need to do to be ready for the climate change driven fires of the future. Here is one of them: Victoria should set up a volunteer remote area firefighting team, which can work alongside the government paid fire crews. This would increase our capacity to stop lightning strikes from turning into massive blazes. It’s a good idea. It just needs a bit of political will and money to make it happen.

Continue reading “Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes”

The Little Dargo: a pristine catchment threatened by logging

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash, in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River. This area of state forest in north east Victoria  lies right next to the Alpine National Park. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time.

This area is especially important because the upper catchment of the Little Dargo is in a pristine condition, without roads. It has not been burnt in recent decades, whereas much of the surrounding area has been devastated by repeat fires.

At this point it is very difficult to get in to the upper Little Dargo catchment. However, a rough route has recently been opened into the area to allow visitors to see the area before logging starts.

Continue reading “The Little Dargo: a pristine catchment threatened by logging”

Guided walk to the Little Dargo River

The fires of 2019/20 burnt huge areas of north eastern Victoria. The remaining unburnt forests are more important than ever. One of these areas lies in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, just south of Mt Hotham. It is a pristine area, without roads, and containing mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash. It is an area of state forest that lies right next to the Alpine National Park.

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest in the upper Little Dargo River, probably this spring. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time. Extensive roading networks will be needed to access the coupes.

One coupe has already been logged. The remaining coupes have not yet been scheduled for harvesting. There is still time to stop this ecological disaster – if we act now.

Join us for a walk to experience the beauty that is the Little Dargo.

Sunday April 24, 10 am – 3pm.

Continue reading “Guided walk to the Little Dargo River”

Yet another warning that we need to act now to protect forests from climate change-driven fire

According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Program and environmental not-for-profit organisation GRID-Arendal, as climate change continues to destablise global weather patterns, we can expect up to 50% more wildfires by the turn of the century.

This will impact on us locally and the mountain forests we love.

One example of this is Alpine Ash forests, which have been heavily impacted by fire in recent decades. The same threats are starting to cause local collapse of Snow Gum woodlands.

Continue reading “Yet another warning that we need to act now to protect forests from climate change-driven fire”

‘Citizen science’ field trip investigates loss of Snow Gums

Friends of the Earth recently held its first citizen science fieldtrip to map areas of Snow Gum forests in the Victorian mountains. These forests are largely protected in national parks but are threatened by climate driven fire regimes and dieback, which is caused by a native beetle.

We checked sites on the northern end of the Dargo High Plains, which is roughly south of the Hotham ski resort. We visited areas that have been burnt multiple times in recent years. This has resulted in the death of many parent trees, and then loss of the seedlings and resprouting that happened after the first fire. We were pleased to see that, after two mild and wet summers, seedlings have finally started to grow in sections of these burnt forests.

While these forests will recover from fire, climate change is making fires more frequent and this is leading to local loss of Snow Gum woodlands.

Continue reading “‘Citizen science’ field trip investigates loss of Snow Gums”

Help identify and report Snow Gum dieback

Snow gums are experiencing dieback in Kosciuszko National Park, largely because of the impacts of the native longicorn (or ‘longhorn’) beetle. These beetles prefer to lay their eggs on moisture-stressed trees and, in warmer weather, the longicorn beetle can hatch and grow up to 75% faster. It is understood that climate change is helping the spread of dieback because of background warming.

Now dieback is being seen more frequently in the mountain forests of Victoria.

Jessica Ward-Jones, a PhD student at the Fenner school, is part of a group researching snow-gum dieback, and is asking for people visiting the mountains to send in details of sightings of dieback affected trees.

Continue reading “Help identify and report Snow Gum dieback”

‘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’”

Giving back to the Alps

Most of Australia’s High Country is now protected in parks. While there are significant pressures on many of these – for instance plans for a major expansion of commercial development in Kosciuszko national park, and tourism development in wild areas in lutruwita/ Tasmania – there is also the existential threat posed by climate change.

On a day to day basis our parks are generally underfunded and so the Parks Services struggle to deal with invasive species and the impacts of tourism. We need to increase funding across the board for our parks services.

There are also many options to directly support the ecological integrity of our mountain areas through hands on volunteer work. As author Alice Walker puts it nicely, ‘Activism is my rent for living on the planet’, and there are many ways to get involved in hands on efforts in and around the Alps. Here are a few ideas.

Continue reading “Giving back to the Alps”

An Icon at Risk: current and emerging threats to the Victorian Alps

Snow Gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) are the classic alpine tree of the High Country, generally growing at heights between 1,300 and 1,800 metres asl. Anyone who has visited the Australian High Country will know – and probably love – these trees.

In recent decades, wildfire has been devastating huge areas of the Snow Gum forests, with significant fires in the Victorian High Country in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7, 2013 and 2019/20. More than 90% of Snow Gum habitat has been burnt at least once in the last 20 years.

The species can survive fire. However, climate change driven fire seasons are leading to more frequent fire, which is causing more death of trees and changes to forest structure. In some instances, localised collapse of Snow Gum woodlands is now being observed. As climate scientist Michael Mann describes it, we are now seeing climate change play out in real time.

We must ask whether we are now seeing the start of the collapse of Snow Gum woodlands, one of Victoria’s iconic vegetation communities.

Continue reading “An Icon at Risk: current and emerging threats to the Victorian Alps”
Featured post

Parks Victoria releases feral horse action plan for comment

Parks Victoria (PV) have released an updated draft action plan outlining feral horse management intentions over the next ten years.

You have until Friday 23 April to provide comment on the plan.

Continue reading “Parks Victoria releases feral horse action plan for comment”

Across the Alps with Ferdinand von Mueller

Ferdinand von Mueller was Victoria’s first government botanist. He travelled extensively through the Australian Alps during the 1850s and collected more than 200 species of plants from the mountains, at least a. third of which had not been recorded before by Europeans.

I recently discovered an old report by Linden Gillbank, called Alpine Botanical Expeditions of Ferdinand Mueller (1991) and available here on the Royal Botanic Gardens website, which gives a fascinating insight into the mountains in the mid 19th century. As Linden notes, his letters and reports are very light on in terms of describing the routes he took and the people he travelled with, however they provide some beautiful descriptions of mountain landscapes and flora.

Continue reading “Across the Alps with Ferdinand von Mueller”

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