Friday, June 18, 2010

Deforestation in Australia

The destruction of ancient forests is one of the most polluting, harmful and unnecessary things we do. Ancient forests typically store many times the biodiversity and carbon content of regrowth or plantation forests, as well as generally being more difficult to harvest for timber than plantations. In Australia, with the growth of overseas and local timber plantations, there is an ever decreasing market for the logging of old growth regions.

A national poll commissioned by The Greens and conducted by Galaxy this week discovered that there is strong public support for ending logging in native forests.
  • 90% of Australians are in favour of protecting remaining high conservation value forests in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales in national parks.
  • 77% agree that the Rudd Government should stop the logging of native forests, which contain large amounts of carbon that would be stored by ending forest clearance
  • 72% are in favour of the Federal Government assisting logging contractors to take redundancies, retrain or move permanently to a plantation based industry.
What do you think: are there any good reasons to continue logging of old growth forests in Australia?
Image by Celia Carroll.


Matthew Moffitt said...

The 7.30 report ran a story this week on the logging industry in Eden, and how they're are lobbying the government to allow wood to replace coal in Australia's coal based power plants.

Scary stuff.

byron smith said...

Thanks for point that out. It can still be watched online for a little longer here: It's about ten minutes long under the heading "Timber industry and environmentalists at loggerheads".

byron smith said...

*point = pointing

byron smith said...

Quote from timber industry spokesperson: "By using biomass we're basically returning to the atmosphere the CO2 that was originally absorbed to make that wood." They call it "carbon recycling"! Talk about greenwash...

A Victorian MP says that it is the most efficient form of solar power, since trees grow through sunlight!

Alison said...

No. No good reasons. Why log native forests when you can log plantation wood?

I went to a field trip to Eden as part of my USYD geography major and we talked to pretty much every major stakeholder in the woodchipping debate. I remember thinking how depressing it was to hear the guys from NSW State Forests talking about "harvesting" the trees. You can't "harvest" native growth! You didn't plant it in the first place!

If you are interested in seeing some pictures, you can find them here (some are pictures of people but there are also some terrifying pictures of "thinning" the trees).

Mike W said...

Sure, I can think of some reasons. money. It is easy money. Already set up to make money that way....
Money is the only reason for anything.

phil_style said...

bingo, Mike W wins.

byron smith said...

Mike, I didn't ask for reasons. I asked for good reasons.

David Palmer said...

I'm not sure the issue is whether we log old growth forest but rather that we should increase the growing of more trees.

If logging old growth equals less trees, bad news.

Also bad news attempting to replace coal with biomass - someone hasn't done their sums.

Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight) said...

I think that logging companies should be planting trees for harvest in hotter, dryer parts of Australia and then, once they have harvested them a number of times, plant natives in that area and move on to another hot & dry part.

This combines Afforestation with the needs of the logging industry.

byron smith said...

OSO - Nice idea. Do you mean the original trees should be natives, or that there is an initial run of faster growing trees that are then replaced (or supplemented) with natives once they have been partially harvested?

David - Old growth matters because old growth has much higher levels of biodiversity, is more resilient under stress, stores greater amounts of carbon, and are generally of higher beauty (which you can convert to eco-tourism dollars if you really want to, but which is of intrinsic worth). But you're right that we should be engaging in more afforestation (thoughtfully, since what is planted where matters).

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

I agree about the aesthetics and biodiversity, but I'm surprised if you are saying that the take up of CO2 is greater in old forest compared to new growth?

byron smith said...

Notice I said that old growth stores more carbon than plantation. This is true across almost all forest types that I am aware of. The question of whether an old growth sequesters carbon at a rate higher than a new plantation is a complex one and depends on many factors.

In summary, it is important to realise two things:
(a) Forests (even old growth) continue to sequester carbon, even after reaching maturity (the link is to a Nature study showing this).

(b) Old growth forests have been sequestering carbon for longer than new growth and store greater amounts of it. Disturbing or destroying them emits more CO2 than doing the same to a newer plantation.

David Palmer said...

Thanks for the clarification.

I guess it is all a matter of balance in the end.

byron smith said...

Yes, though where you think such balance might lie depends on how unbalanced you perceive the current state of affairs to be.

David Palmer said...


byron smith said...

GetUp have a new campaign:

"Right now the forestry industry is preparing to sit down with key members of the environment movement to find a sustainable way forward for the industry--one that protects native forests.

"The Forestry Principles serve as a guide to the industry and governments at all levels on how to achieve a sustainable industry and a future for our native forests.

"They need to know that the Australian people are serious about these reforms and for that we need your support."

Sign up here to add your name to those who want Australia's native forests to be protected and the forestry industry to move to more sustainable practices.

byron smith said...

Here's the full email for those interested:

Dear Byron,

While the media is focused on the political machinations in Canberra, there is a truly transformative moment opening up in the 30 year struggle to protect Australia's native forests.

Would you like to be a part of it?

In an amazing development, the Board of Gunns Ltd no longer includes Robin Gray and John Gay, two of the biggest enemies of forestry industry reform and two of the fiercest champions of the Gunns pulp mill.

The forestry industry - in Tasmania and elsewhere - are finally recognising that their destructive practices can't continue forever. They're ready to sit down with the conservation movement, including our friends at The Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania, to talk about transitioning to a more sustainable future.

But there are still those in industry and government resisting reform, which is why we need a show of strength to support our partners in these once in a generation talks. We need to build a mass movement -- imagine 50,000 Australians behind a set of Forestry Principles to guide the industry, retailers and all levels of government to a sustainable future:

Show your support here.

The Forestry Principles call for a swift transition away from the industrial logging of our precious native forests and for the establishment of 'protected areas' for all of our high conservation value native forests.

The forestry industry will be walking into these talks with their corporate wealth and power. But imagine our negotiating partners walking in with 50,000 Australians right at their backs, along with the support of a united environment movement. After decades of conflict, you can help seal the deal on reform, just by adding your name.

9 out of 10 Australians are in favour of protecting the high conservation value native forests of Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria (1). And according to our regular surveys, native forest protection is one of of the most important issues to GetUp members. But nothing will change unless we stand up and be counted.

These negotiations between industry and conservation groups are an extraordinary development. We have been fighting for this chance for too long--don't let it pass us by.

Thanks for standing up for our forests,
The GetUp Team

PS - Ready for more action to protect native forests? It's coming, but it can't happen without a strong movement united behind the Forestry Principles--sign up here. And don't forget to tell your friends--just send them this email and tell them to take just one moment to protect an Australian legacy for generations to come.

(1) Galaxy Omnibus Poll of 1,100 respondents aged 16 years and older, conducted 28-30 May 2010.


GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: Tasmanian forestry agreement close to collapse.

byron smith said...

SMH: More developments. Greens win protection for 430,000 hectares of forest, which is lower than hoped for, but better than a poke in the eye (and better than it was looking even a week ago, when the protection was only going to be an interim measure, which could easily expire after a year or so).

byron smith said...

The Conversation: An agreement no one agrees on. A good summary of recent developments in Tasmanian forestry policy and politics.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: Australia's vast and dynamic forest cover - a bird's eye view. A very helpful overview of the state of Australian forest cover. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, contested in the comments.