Weekly Forest News


Forest Media 5 March 2021

Koalas continue to be the key issue. Kean came under attack from the ALP and the right-wing shock-jocks when it was revealed that he had been strongly advised not to set a target for Koalas before he announced he was going to double their populations. He thought it was good politics. His estimates answers indicated he is supporting removing Koala protections from private lands and relying on financial incentives. There was a fair bit of interest in the launch of the NCC’s Koalas Need Trees campaign, interestingly they vowed to hold the government to account for their promise to double the koala population. Various Koala groups, and NEFA, have been applying pressure on Geoff Provest in Tweed. Out of the blue Prime TV gave the Sandy Creek Koala Park a run. In south-east Queensland they rescue a lot of Koalas, but have trouble finding places to release them. I am concerned by the efforts to breed super Koalas for release, particularly as habitat dwindles. The oldest captive Koala is 24 years old, and lives in Japan.

Everyone wants Koala ‘sanctuarys’/tourist parks, now we are expanding to platypus. Though captive breeding of critically endangered Bellinger River snapping turtles are returning them to the wild. The benefits of keeping animals wild is displayed by the ecosystem engineering of Echidnas. The 3 species of Greater Glider are still garnering attention, and Bungabbee gets a mention.

NSW estimates hearings are dealing with more than Koalas, some highlights are:

  • The stoush between the EPA and Forestry over logging of burnt forests without applying the site specific conditions – it seems Forestry will get away with it on the grounds they had pre-fire approvals and the site specific conditions were only meant to last 12 months.
  • Forestry apparently gave a voluntary undertaking to the EPA to not log in unburnt forests in Lower Bucca State Forest that they subsequently reneged on.
  • Forestry timber revenue is expected to decrease by 25 per cent, largely due to a loss of pine plantations, though the Government has chipped in 46 million primarily to expand nurseries and replant plantations.
  • The net return that the taxpayers of New South Wales got from the hardwood division last year was $400,000. Forestry have done an assessment of the loss of hardwood resources and the impact on100 year sustainable yields, which they should release within a month. Once this is done they will start renegotiating expiring (2023) Wood Supply Agreements.
  • Barilaro claims he was misrepresented as supporting the phase out of logging public native forests.
  • The shock was that despite Redbank claiming they are ready to go, Forestry claim they have no intent to provide biomass resources to them and the EPA say they have had no discussions with them.

Timberbiz reports that the Victorian Forest Products Association has slammed Murrindindi Shire Council’s (in northern Victorian) unanimous decision to advocate for logging to cease in a local catchment.

March the 3 was World Wildlife Day, this year’s theme was Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet. A time to reflect on the benefits of forests in supporting 80 per cent of all terrestrial wild species, and their clearing at a rate of a football pitch every 6 seconds. Australia displayed that it is not just one of the leaders in deforestation by declaring 12 mammals and a lizard as extinct, cementing our leadership in mammal extinctions (34). On World Environment Day (5 June 2021) the United Nation is launching the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – I expect Australia to be missing in action again.

Some good news is that the Dutch have stopped subsiding biomass (from as far away as America) as renewable energy, the first of the EU cards to fall. Meanwhile we are recovering from the Covid-19 crisis with a surge in CO2 emissions returning us to our unrelenting growth trajectory.

Dailan

Koalas continue to rule the roost:

… doubling is troubling:

The big Koala story in the Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Telegraph, Australian, 2GB etc. is that Environment Minister Matt Kean set a target to double the koala population against explicit expert advice to the chief scientist that such a target would lead to “substandared” decisions and often result in inappropriate spending. The ALP obtained the advices under a freedom of information request and presented them during estimates hearings, though Kean dug in as he thought it good politics.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/good-politics-kean-accused-of-ignoring-science-with-koala-policy-20210302-p57746.html

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/subscribe/news/1/?sourceCode=DTWEB_WRE170_a_GGL&dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailytelegraph.com.au%2Fnews%2Fnsw%2Fkean-rejects-advice-to-double-koala-population%2Fnews-story%2Fb63b044265a789c0c7d743d6e29d4748&memtype=anonymous&mode=premium

https://www.2gb.com/matt-keans-koala-stunt-inspires-seussian-poetry-from-mark-latham/

Alan Jones piled in on the attack on Kean, linking the Koala target to the plight of the coal industry, saying “This bloke obviously doesn’t want to fight the Greens, he wants to join them,” “He’s a joke.”

https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6237057675001

Also at estimates Matt Kean indicated the Government is going to proceed with doing away with regulation of private forests and put increased emphasis on incentive payments. The Chair, Cate Faherman asked:

What is being done to try to ensure that landholders can be paid at least as much to protect koala habitat as opposed to clearing it, for example, under Private Native Forestry [PNF]? We have heard from a lot of landholders that that is quite an attractive incentive to log their land for forestry. They are not getting nearly enough to protect koala habitat. It is really up to the Government to try to throw more money towards this. Is that going to happen?

Matt Kean responded:

We want to use the Biodiversity Conservation Trust to incentivise landowners to protect koala habitat on their land. Right now I can see why people would use PNF codes, for example, as opposed to using the Biodiversity Conservation Trust. We have just shaken up the trust a bit. We have made some new appointments and we were talking about how they could better focus their finances and energies on protecting koala habitat. That is a work in progress.

… We need to respect farmers' property rights; I get that. There are other mechanisms which we can use to try to protect those property rights and deliver on our environmental objectives.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2524/Transcript%20-%20Tuesday%202%20March%202021%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC7%20-%20Energy%20and%20Environment%20-%20Kean.pdf

The NCC have launched their Koalas Need Trees, interestingly vowing they will hold the government to account for their promise to double the koala population by 2050. The campaign is based on 15 principal aims:

  1. Place an immediate moratorium on logging in all state forests identified by the NSW Government as koala hubs and core koala habitat.
  2. End all logging in public native forest by 2030 and invest in a sustainable, plantation-based timber industry.
  3. Ban the destruction of all koala habitat for mining, agriculture and urban development on public and private land by 2025.
  4. Reinstate the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019.
  5. Transfer state forests and crown lands identified as core koala habitat to the national parks estate. 
  6. Support listing koalas in NSW as endangered under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
  7. Write a recovery plan to double koala populations in every Koala Management Area.
  8. Fund koala plans of management (KPOMs) by 2030 in all local government areas where koala habitat is known to occur or is likely to occur.
  9. Identify koala habitat links in urban areas and areas requiring dog control, fencing modifications, traffic calming, koala crossings, tree retention and plantings.
  10. Protect existing koala corridors and create new ones by revegetating links between koala colonies.
  11. Establish a $1 billion fund for koala habitat restoration by the state election in 2023.
  12. Buy high-quality and core koala habitat from willing sellers and add to the national parks estate or establish stewardship payments for private landholders to protect koala habitat on their land.
  13. Map core and high-quality koala habitat and corridors over all tenures by 2025. Have the maps validated by independent experts, updated every five years and made available to the public.
  14. Establish a database with critical data on all koala populations in NSW. Update the database annually and publicly report on the species’ status.
  15. Develop an ongoing funding program to support koala carers and koala hospitals.

https://www.nature.org.au/our-campaigns/koalas-need-trees/

https://www.perthnow.com.au/lifestyle/koalas-need-trees-campaign-to-save-icon-ng-s-2051636

https://au.news.yahoo.com/koalas-trees-campaign-save-icon-215107038.html

https://www.northernargus.com.au/story/7148533/koalas-need-trees-campaign-to-save-icon/

https://www.odt.co.nz/news/world/campaign-save-koala

The Byron Echo reports on meetings of Friends of the Koala (FoK), Friends of Cudgen Nature Reserve (FCNR) Caldera Environment Centre (CEC) and NEFA, with Member for Tweed Geoff Provest to request action on Koalas. NEFA requested he make the following representations:

  1. The NSW Government immediately resolve outstanding issues and adopts the Tweed Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management.
  2. The NSW Government urgently funds Koala surveys to the west of the highway to identify core Koala habitat throughout Tweed Shire in accordance with the SEPP process.
  3. The NSW Government not allow forestry operations to over-ride provisions of Local Environment Plans (LEPs) and State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs).
  4. The NSW Government not support that clearing for infrastructure (fences, roads, pipelines, sheds, dams, stockyards), farm timber, grazing, gravel pits, airstrips, firebreaks etc, be allowed in environmental zones without requiring consent from Councils.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/koala-groups-lobby-tweed-mp-goeff-provest-for-action/

On Wednesday 3 March Prime News gave the Sandy Creek Koala Park a good run.

… breeding super Koalas to take over:

Scientific American has a lengthy story about the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s new breeding/tourism facility. The hospital treated 50 Koalas (many of which were euthanised) out of at least 5,000 NSW koalas affected by the fires. Interestingly they cite the University of Queensland as finding that wild Koalas have poor quality semen because of environmental stressors, though this improves threefold in captive individuals. The University has also been crossbreeding them with individuals from other populations and applying chlamydia vaccination therapy, their aim being to “release the captive-born joeys so they can spread their unique genes among wild populations”, to “replace those susceptible to disease and inbreeding”. It’s a brave new world of breeding super Koalas while the blitzkrieg continues against natural habitats. Hitler would be proud.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/struggling-koalas-get-help-from-a-bold-breeding-program/

The Camden Courier reports that more than 5000 trees donated by the Port Macquarie Hospital are being planted by 24 landowners around Lorne through a post-fire koala habitat recovery grant funded by Landcare Australia and guided by Hastings Landcare.

https://www.camdencourier.com.au/story/7142463/farmers-planting-trees-to-safeguard-future-of-koalas/

The Daily Mail tells the story about a Koala rescuer who has saved more than 100 koalas in 3 months complaining “'We rescue a sick koala which survives the disease or injury it has sustained, to be released back home which is already listed for development and translocation is not an option in older koalas”. They are fighting a losing battle against habitat loss.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9323201/Heartbreaking-photo-shows-hidden-danger-Australian-wildlife-suburban-homes.html

The world record of 24 years has been set by a Japanese zoo for the oldest Koala in captivity.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/03/02/national/oldest-koala/

And now a platypus zoo/refuge/sanctuary:

The decision by Taronga zoo to build a bigger and better platypus enclosure (refuge/sanctuary) has been hailed as a world first and saviour for our next imperilled species.

https://gulfnews.com/world/oceania/australia-building-worlds-first-platypus-sanctuary-1.77572542

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/australia-building-world-s-first-platypus-sanctuary-to-promote-breeding-and-rehabilitation-101614758729007.html

https://www.ctvnews.ca/climate-and-environment/climate-disasters-prompt-australia-s-first-platypus-refuge-1.5333213

Captive breeding does have a place:

The Bellingen Courier Sun reports that there has been a third release of critically endangered Bellinger River snapping turtles, bred at Taronga Zoo, to their Bellinger River habitat after a virus wiped out 90 per cent of the turtles in just six weeks in 2015.

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/7151213/monitoring-shows-released-turtles-doing-well-in-bellinger-river/

Earthy benefits of wild echidnas:

The Conversation extols the earthy benefits of echidnas as ecosystem engineers, improving soil health, promoting plant growth and keeping carbon in the soil, with each moving about seven tonnes – about eight trailer loads – of soil every year.

https://theconversation.com/dig-this-a-tiny-echidna-moves-8-trailer-loads-of-soil-a-year-helping-tackle-climate-change-155947?utm

Great Gliders:

BBC travel have done a lengthy article about the recognition of 3 species of Greater Gliders and their plight. (Clearly they deserve at least 3 sanctuaries). Bungabbee gets a mention:

South of the border, conservationists are currently campaigning against planned logging in several northern NSW glider habitats including Bungabbee State Forest north of Casino, where a recent survey organised by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) also revealed the previously unknown presence of two vulnerable animals – the long-nosed potoroo and marbled frogmouth.

"The area has already been denuded of large hollow-bearing trees so the greater glider population will be in big trouble if they lose what's left," said NEFA co-founder Dailan Pugh, whose environmental activism in the 1990s led to the creation of the state's first endangered fauna species legislation.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20210217-australias-charismatic-glider-marsupial

NSW Estimates hearings shed a bit of light:

… EPA muzzled from taking on Forestry:

At the estimates hearing on 2 March Justin Field noted that the Forestry Corporation were intending to start logging burnt forests in South Brooman SF that morning without applying the Site Specific Conditions, asking the EPA “Are you considering injuncting the Forestry Corporation from going back into these sites, particularly the high-risk sites you identified, without site-specific conditions?”. To which the EPA responded “to proceed with an injunction we would have to do so consistent with the Premier's memorandum on litigation between government agencies, which means the process around that is quite different for us as a government agency. The basis upon which we would take that injunction needs to be a breach. It cannot be a pre-emptive step prior to logging commencing”, leading Mr. Field to retort “So we have to lose the trees first. We have to see the damage first before we can do something. We lost hundreds of hollow-bearing trees that we could not afford to against your rules last year before you issued a stop work order. Why do we have to see the damage occur first?

Further to this Matt Kean indicated that Forestry may be intending to operate on pre-fire approvals:

Mr MATT KEAN: Well, we have an independent environmental watchdog. I expect them to be a tough cop on the beat and we expect them to be out there doing their job. But, you know, Forestry Corp, if they have gone in to log these areas, just remember the tranches that they are logging have pre-approved plans. Those plans were approved before these bushfires ripped through. There is a gap in the IFOA.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2524/Transcript%20-%20Tuesday%202%20March%202021%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC7%20-%20Energy%20and%20Environment%20-%20Kean.pdf

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/nsw/the-state-s-environmental-watchdog-is-muzzled-on-forests-20210302-p5775o.html

When questioned on this in estimates Mr CHAUDHARY, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Forestry Corporation stated:

We have been working quite closely with the EPA on it, on site-specific conditions to find out a way through. That has been a very slow process and we have found it has not been operational on the ground; when you start to put all those conditions together it does not quite work for timber production on the ground. So we have recently made a decision to recommence harvesting under the rules set, which is the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval [CIFOA] that is part of our legal framework, but we are augmenting that with additional environmental safeguards so that there is environmental protection as well.

Barilaro later stating:

Mr JOHN BARILARO: The EPA is the sheriff on the beat, but they know—again, firstly, we have been able to work within those forests with site-specific arrangements. Now we are moving back to the IFOA and with a number of augmented measures to protect, because, again, with respect to Forestry Corp, they do not just go in there and pillage these forests, as you would like to pretend and claim—

Justin Field also questioned Mr BARNES Secretary, Department of Regional NSW what was the basis on which the decision was taken to effectively ignore site-specific operating conditions and move back to using the coastal IFOA?”, to which he responded:

I informed the Deputy Premier that I had advice from the Forestry Corporation that it believed given the passage of time that it could get back into certain coupes and operate in accordance with its legislative framework, which is the coastal IFOA.

Later adding:

Mr BARNES: I think the other thing—just to note—is that when the site-specific conditions were put in place, the EPA themselves made them only relevant for the first 12 months. For most of them, that 12-month period is over.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2520/Transcript%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC%204%20-%20Deputy%20Premier,%20Regional%20NSW%20Industry%20and%20Trade%20(Barilaro).pdf

… and in Lower Bucca SF:

In Estimates Justin Field queried the EPA whether Forestry had reneged on an undertaking not to log unburnt forests in Lower Bucca State Forest:

… One of those related to forestry operation in koala habitat in the Lower Bucca State Forest and it is very clearly indicated here that Forestry Corporation had given an undertaking voluntarily to not log in unburnt forests that they subsequently went back on. I asked this question of the Forestry Corporation, and they were not very clear about whether or not they had given such an undertaking and were going to come back to me: Can you give me an indication, is that your understanding of the undertaking that Forestry Corporation had given?

To which the EPA’s Ms MACKEY responded unequivocally “Yes”.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2524/Transcript%20-%20Tuesday%202%20March%202021%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC7%20-%20Energy%20and%20Environment%20-%20Kean.pdf

Field also asked questions of the Forestry Corporation:

… The suggestion in this briefing note is that the EPA asked Forestry Corporation to voluntarily not log in the unburnt forest and to replant operations in burnt sites—I am quoting from it here now—where additional controls can be placed on the operations to manage the environmental risk. Forestry Corporation originally agreed with this approach, leading to a process that has been underway, but since rejected the EPA's request, saying you needed the unburnt forest to deliver on wood supply agreements. Did you agree not to log the Lower Bucca State Forest and then go back on it?

Mr CHAUDHARY: I do not think we did agree not to log, but before we commenced our harvesting operations, we have undertaken the necessary planning process and that would have advised whether we would be harvesting in that particular forest or not.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2520/Transcript%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC%204%20-%20Deputy%20Premier,%20Regional%20NSW%20Industry%20and%20Trade%20(Barilaro).pdf

… Forestry’s shaky financials:

The Hon. MICK VEITCH questioned the Forestry Corporation about their statement in their annual report that timber revenue is expected to decrease by 25 per cent:

Mr CHAUDHARY: Sure. That is a very good question, Mr Veitch, and it is one that we are very concerned about. So a quarter of the softwood plantations of all of the revenue translates to a fairly large number—about $100 million in revenue. What we are doing there is—first of all, the impact of the fires is going to see additional expenditure over the next several years. One of the key expenditure items is restocking the plantations and that is in the vicinity of about $150 million over the next seven years. The other one is that we have lost—not quite lost, but fire has damaged a lot of the road network in our native forest part of the business, which is something like 200-plus bridges and about 20,000 kilometres of road.

Mr CHAUDHARY: We have actually done quite a bit of work over the last 12 months. We were fortunate enough to get some funding from the Government in terms—it was an equity injection in terms of the stimulus funding, which was about $46 million.

Mr HANSEN: Just on that, there are three components to that equity injection. The first one is expansion of Blowering and Grafton; the second one, as outlined, is the infrastructure pieces—the roads, the bridges, the facilities; and the third one—in fact just over half of the dollars—is for replanting to re-establish the plantations.

Mr. Shoebridge also questioned their financials, focussing on the Government’s subsidising them through community service obligations:

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: And the $11 million to $12 million for community service obligations, what was that spent on?

Mr HANSEN: There is 2.5 million for road construction and maintenance; 6.7 for firefighting and prevention for community purposes and unproductive forest areas; 2.9 for recreation and tourism activities; 1.5 for community engagement, education, interaction with councils and government departments; 0.8 for research and development; 2 million for non-commercial forestry management; 1.5 million for the maintenance of Edrom and Imlay roads. Which actually last year, so the 2019-20 is 17.9 million.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: So it went from 17.9 down to 11 or 12?

Mr HANSEN: I just told you what the community service obligation is and the breakdown for the community service obligation, and that is obviously split between plantations as well as hardwood.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: If you take that payment from Treasury into the hardwood division, last year the hardwood division would have gone backwards by about $11.5 million—in the red?

Mr CHAUDHARY: The major item was the impairment. We had a write-down in the asset value of the softwood biological asset due to the fire. As I explained earlier, we lost 25 per cent of the softwood estate. That was about $346 million. It is an accounting adjustment, it is not a cash adjustment. I just want to make that clear.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: So the whole effort of destroying forests, logging forests, the environmental damage caused by that—the net return that the taxpayers of New South Wales got from the hardwood division was $400,000, like the cost of a modest unit in Western Sydney? That was the net result of the hardwood—

… and how has timber been affected:

Estimates questions revealed that the Forestry Corporation has done a rapid assessment of the fire’s impacts on timber, including extrapolating these over the next 100 years to determine sustainable yields, with the results to be released within a month. Justin Field questioned Mr BARNES Secretary, Department of Regional NSW about the impacts of the fires on timber yields, to which he responded:

… there has been a sustainable yield review completed in the last six months of last year. That is now being finalised. Whilst not at the stage of public release at this stage, it has been guiding Forestry Corporation's supply discussions with customers as well as supply agreements and will be available soon.

There were a series of interventions by Barilaro, so a more definitive answer was not forthcoming, leading Field to finally ask:

Mr JUSTIN FIELD: When will the sustainable yields review be published?

Mr HANSEN: Within a month you would expect it to be published, yes.

Regarding renewing Wood Supply Agreements, the exchange was:

Mr JUSTIN FIELD: I think the non-Boral North Coast wood supply agreements fall due in 2023. Have you commenced renegotiations with those contract holders?

Mr CHAUDHARY: Not at this stage. We are again waiting for the sustainable yield review. When we understand what that looks like for the future then we will be having those discussions with the customers.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2520/Transcript%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC%204%20-%20Deputy%20Premier,%20Regional%20NSW%20Industry%20and%20Trade%20(Barilaro).pdf

… is Barilaro really intending to phase out logging:

In estimates Mark Banasiak The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers chair, asked Barilaro “in January 2021 in The Sydney Morning Herald you are reported as saying that you are open to ending logging in State forests as part of what is reported as your new bromance with Minister Kean. Can you help us reconcile that commentary?”, to which Barilaro responded:

… Mr Hannam had the ability to use a bit of creative writing and took liberties to quote or misquote me, let me say. At the end of the day, let us not kid ourselves. The idea of private native forestry plantations will continue to grow. That is where the focus needs to be. … No, I believe that private native forestry plantations and native forests will all be part of the landscape when it comes to the timber industry going forward.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2520/Transcript%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC%204%20-%20Deputy%20Premier,%20Regional%20NSW%20Industry%20and%20Trade%20(Barilaro).pdf

… and what about biomass:

The responses on Redbank were astounding, despite Hunter Energy talking up how they are about to start within months they don’t seem to have the resources they need. The Forestry Corporation said they have no intent to supply any wood to them, and the EPA say they have had no discussions with them and obtaining offcuts from native forests would be illegal without a resource recovery order. In estimates David Shoebridge questioned the Forestry Corporation about biomass:

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Is there any intention or is there any planning to provide biomass from the native forests?

Mr CHAUDHARY: No.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Regarding the proposed Redbank energy park in Singleton in the Hunter Valley, which is proposed to burn one million tonnes of native hardwood annually, do I understand that there is no current contract and no intention to have any of that come from public native forests?

Mr CHAUDHARY: Yes. It will not be from public native forest.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: And you have not had any discussions between Forestry Corporation and the proponents for the Redbank energy park.

Mr CHAUDHARY: I am not sure, Mr Shoebridge. I can check that for you.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2520/Transcript%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC%204%20-%20Deputy%20Premier,%20Regional%20NSW%20Industry%20and%20Trade%20(Barilaro).pdf

Under questioning from the Hon. MARK PEARSON (AJP) the EPA responded:

Ms MACKEY: The way the biomass operates is that they have explicit orders under our resource recovery orders, and it is clear what they can and cannot use in terms of what you are calling "offcuts". So I want to just go into a bit of detail around those offcuts. The offcuts that can be used from native forestry are those that have already been through the mill—for example, the sawdust, of which they have great piles. But it is not the offcuts. For example, if you go into a native forest—one of our State forests that has been harvested—you will see remnants of trees and the undergrowth that are left in the forest. They cannot take that and use that as part of that resource recovery order.

Ms MACKEY: So in terms of Redbank there is a process that is underway at the moment that is going through the planning process, but there has been no application to the EPA around amending or seeking a different licence for that Redbank site. There would absolutely be due consideration to the current regulatory arrangements, including any resource recovery orders that we have relating to biomass as a part of that development project. It was at the stage before at the moment. We have had no engagement with Redbank.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2524/Transcript%20-%20Tuesday%202%20March%202021%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC7%20-%20Energy%20and%20Environment%20-%20Kean.pdf

How dare council’s oppose logging:

TimberBiz reports that the Victorian Forest Products Association has slammed Murrindindi Shire Council’s (in northern Victorian) unanimous decision to advocate for logging to cease in the Snobs Creek area, on the grounds “tourist trails through pristine forests will be destroyed, pollution of Snobs Creek from the logging will threaten the viability of the Snobs Creek Hatchery, and the increased dust from the destruction of Snobs Creek Road will further pollute the creek and render the formerly popular Snobs Creek Falls unviable as a tourist attraction.”

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/vfpa-slams-murrindindi-council-trying-to-stop-logging-at-snobs-creek/

3 March was World Wildlife Day:

March 3 is World Wildlife Day and this year’s theme was Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet. The World Economic Forum highlight four issues:

  • a UK-sized area of tropical forest is being lost every year, at a rate of a football pitch every 6 seconds, responsible for 4.7 gigatons CO2 emissions per year (more than the EU).
  • key advances in drug therapies rely on the natural world, for example almost half (48.6%) of cancer drugs are either natural products or were directly derived from natural sources
  • one teaspoon of healthy soil is home to more living organisms than there are people on the planet.
  • simply planting trees won’t automatically create healthy forest biomes.

The United Nations commented:

Under increasing threat from the  unsustainable use of forest resources and wildlife trafficking, the UN chief called on Wednesday for people and governments everywhere to step up efforts to protect forests and support forest communities. 

“In so doing, we will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for people, planet and prosperity”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message commemorating World Wildlife Day

Highlighting the benefits of forests, home to about 80 per cent of all terrestrial wild species, Mr. Guterres explained that “they help regulate the climate and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people”. 

Every year, unsustainable agriculture, timber trafficking, organized crime and illegal trade in wild animal species, costs the world about 4.7 million hectares of forests – an area larger than Denmark. 

The latter also raises the risk of zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19, Mr. Guterres said. 

“So, on this year’s World Wildlife Day, I urge governments, businesses and people everywhere to scale up efforts to conserve forests and forest species, and to support and listen to the voices of forest communities”, he said. 

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/forest-biodiversity-facts-world-wildlife-day/

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086222

https://www.miragenews.com/protect-forests-support-forest-communities-522587/

Once again we have proven we can punch above our weight in more than just landclearing and CO2 pollution. As Australia’s contribution to the world’s wildlife and the extinction crisis, the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley, amended the list of threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 by adding 12 mammal and a reptile species to the extinct list, and 4 plants and 1 fish to critically endangered. That confirms 34 mammals as extinct since Europeans arrived.

http://www.environment.gov.au/node/50977

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/mar/03/australia-confirms-extinction-of-13-more-species-including-first-reptile-since-colonisation

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/australian-government-adds-a-dozen-animals-to-extinct-list-68508

https://au.news.yahoo.com/12-species-added-to-aussie-extinction-list-115136312.html

https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/australia/300243801/global-leader-in-mammal-extinctions-another-12-australian-animals-declared-extinct

https://www.townandcountrymagazine.com.au/story/7153057/pm-focuses-on-industry-over-biodiversity/

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/newsradio/australia-has-the-worst-mammal-extinction-record/13215446

In 2020 David Attenborough produced the video “Extinction: The Facts in 6 minutes”, which is one of 8 short video clips around the issue of extinction (and the spread of pandemics).

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08rg347

A Decade of Ecosystem Restoration:

On World Environment Day (5 June 2021) the United Nation is launching The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration noting:

There has never been a more urgent need to restore damaged ecosystems than now.

Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet - and its people. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction. It will only succeed if everyone plays a part.

 Mongabay has a podcast with Judith Schwartz, whose 2020 book The Reindeer Chronicles: And Other Inspiring Stories of Working with Nature to Heal the Earth documents the growing global movement focused on ecological rehabilitation.

https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/02/podcast-is-the-growing-ecosystem-restoration-movement-our-last-hope-for-a-sustainable-future/?utm

The Dutch stop biomass subsidies:

After giving 11.4 billion euros to subsidize biomass in 2019 the Dutch government recently rejected more Biomass subsidies. The American Dogwood Alliance claimed this as an historic win that “sets an important precedent that will send shockwaves through the biomass industry”.

https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2021/02/big-victory-for-southern-forests/?emci=64ca283f-5278-eb11-85aa-00155d43c992&emdi=7c5817bc-587b-eb11-85aa-00155d43c992&ceid=7078872

Carbon dioxide rebounds stronger than before:

The IEA identify that CO2 emissions are on the rise again:

The Covid-19 crisis in 2020 triggered the largest annual drop in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions since the Second World War, according to IEA data released today, but the overall decline of about 6% masks wide variations depending on the region and the time of year.

After hitting a low in April, global emissions rebounded strongly and rose above 2019 levels in December. The latest data show that global emissions were 2%, or 60 million tonnes, higher in December 2020 than they were in the same month a year earlier. Major economies led the resurgence as a pick-up in economic activity pushed energy demand higher and significant policies measures to boost clean energy were lacking. Many economies are now seeing emissions climbing above pre-crisis levels.

https://www.iea.org/news/after-steep-drop-in-early-2020-global-carbon-dioxide-emissions-have-rebounded-strongly

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/world-must-break-its-deadly-addiction-to-coal-says-un-chief-20210302-p57754.html


Forest Media 26 February 2021

EPA fines Forestry $30,000 for breaches in Ballengarra State Forest. Campaign on Newry State Forest getting recognition. Hunter Energy has rebadged itself as Verdant Technologies Australia and announced plans to use its biomass electricity to generate liquid hydrogen for the export market.

Genetic analysis shows Koala populations around Port Macquarie are being fragmented by the highway and urban development, while in south-east Queensland urbanisation is forcing them into remnant habitat around wetlands where most are suffering from Ross River Virus, and other work links the prevalence of cancers in Koalas to the koala retrovirus. The Greens are pushing for a Senate Inquiry into the protection of critical Koala habitat. Endangered coastal emus being diminished through car collisions.

The NSW Government has released its 5 year plan to support the recovery of biodiversity following the 2019–20 bushfires, it does take a rosy view of what they have been doing, never-the-less it has some merits and good proposals, though predictably ignores issues such as clearing and logging. NSW Transport secretary Rodd Staples was sacked by Mr Constance in February 2020 for refusing a directive to clear every tree within 40m of a state highway.

Four more forest protectors arrested in Tasmania, and despite losing their court case the Bob Brown Foundation doesn’t have to pay the Government’s costs, estimated at over $300,000. 19 marine and terrestrial ecosystems across Australian and Antarctica identified as undergoing collapse. Fire frequency is increasing, with some experts advocating removing settlements from vulnerable areas and building defendable self-sufficient eco-villages to avoid an apocalyptic future.

Morrison has introduced his new federal threatened species bill which was roundly criticised for ignoring the recommendations from the recent Samuel Review. Meanwhile the United Nations Environment Programme warns us to stop our senseless and suicidal war against nature, noting “The consequences of our recklessness are already apparent in human suffering, towering economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth”. They call for a “fundamental change in the technological, economic and social organization of society, including world views, norms, values and governance”.

Dailan Pugh

EPA fines Forestry $30,000 for breaches in Ballengarra

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued two penalty notices and one official caution to Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) for allegedly contravening regulatory requirements, in the Ballengarra State Forest in the mid north coast of NSW.

EPA Officers conducting inspections of the area following a harvesting operation identified 10 freshly cut mature trees within the hard and soft protection zones of a second order stream; a significant amount of debris pushed into a stream bed; and evidence of machine access, and earthworks caused by harvesting machinery within a protected zone.

EPA Executive Director of Regional Operations Carmen Dwyer said “Riparian zones must be marked up prior to an operation commencing, so they are identifiable and protected from logging operations. This failure to correctly mark the location resulted, in turn, in further contraventions.”

The EPA has issued FCNSW with a total penalty of $30,000, comprising $15,000 for two breaches and an official caution for a subsequent breach.

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2021/epamedia210226-forestry-corporation-fined-for-failing-to-mark-out-a-prohibited-logging-zone

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/7144863/forestry-corporation-cops-30000-epa-fine/

Newry getting recognition:

The Bellingen Courier Sun has an in depth article about proposed intensive logging scheduled for Newry State Forest, promoting the town meeting that night.

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/7140491/action-to-save-newry-state-forest-from-logging/

Redbank now to convert forests into liquid hydrogen:

While Hunter Energy have variously proposed restarting the Redbank power plant using various percentages of coal they appear to have now settled on 100% biomass. According to ‘Renew Economy’, Hunter Energy has rebadged itself as Verdant Technologies Australia and has now acquired Monarch Hydrogen with a view to using the electricity from its million tonnes of biomass to generate liquid hydrogen for sale on overseas markets.

https://reneweconomy.com.au/hydrogen-start-up-seeks-funds-to-convert-old-coal-generator-to-biomass/

https://stockhead.com.au/energy/new-hydrogen-play-verdant-technologies-launches-pre-ipo-raise/

Verdant claim they already have all approvals, and only need get approval to use 100% biomass. According to Barclay Pearce Capital, Verdant have lodged a DA modification to add the ability to operate on 100% biomass with an estimated 2-4 month approval time, and intend to restart the power plant in 6-8 months.

https://www.barclaypearce.com.au/blog/private-placement-verdant-technologies-australia

Coastal Koalas suffering from fragmentation:

A preliminary assessment of Koala genetics around Port Macquarie undertaken on behalf of WWF has identified genetically distinct populations:

A new DNA study suggests there is limited gene flow between koalas in Port Stephens because they are trapped in isolated patches of habitat, separated from other koalas by roads, houses, buildings and farmland.

Analysis revealed there are two main koala populations or ‘genetic clusters’ in Port Stephens: koalas in the Tilligerry and Tomaree Peninsulas, referred to as ‘peninsula’ koalas, and those further west in Karuah, Ferodale and Balickera, referred to as ‘inland’ koalas.

Genetic data showed these two clusters were once connected. However, the report says peninsula koalas “are now significantly different from those sampled further inland suggesting that gene flow between peninsula and inland koalas has been restricted over recent generations”.

“Peninsula koalas were also found to be less genetically diverse than inland koalas, suggesting that peninsula koalas may be losing genetic diversity due to a lack of successful migration from outside the peninsula”.


Among inland koalas, despite minimal distances separating them, fine-scale analysis suggests gene flow is limited. Koalas sampled in Balickera and Ferodale are separated by the Pacific Highway.

OWAD’s Olivia Woosnam, a koala conservation ecologist, said koala habitat remained largely connected in Port Stephens until the 1940s when tree clearing ramped up due to urbanisation and infrastructure development.

“Previous research shows that isolated populations rapidly become genetically differentiated, and lose genetic diversity due to loss of gene flow. This is likely what has happened on the peninsula, and appears to be starting to happen inland too.

“To improve gene flow in Port Stephens, existing forest must be conserved and groups of koalas reconnected by reinstating safe corridors.

“Functional koalas crossings are also needed to enable koalas to safely traverse roads and highways.

https://www.wwf.org.au/news/news/2021/indications-of-limited-gene-flow-to-isolated-port-stephens-koalas#gs.u9osq0

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-22/how-detection-dogs-and-koala-droppings-are-proving-essential/13176710

The ABC has a 2 min video of a scat dog search.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-22/taz-and-missy-searched-for-evidence-of-koalas/13176462?nw=0

… and marginalisation:

A scientific report in Nature by Johnson et. al. found that Ross River Virus (RRV) is rampant in south-east Queensland Koala populations as urbanisation forces them into refuges around wetlands:

We demonstrate that RRV exposure in koalas is much higher (> 80%) than reported in other sero-surveys and that exposure is uniform across the urban coastal landscape. Uniformity in exposure is related to the presence of the major RRV mosquito vector, Culex annulirostris, and similarities in animal movement, tree use, and age-dependent increases in exposure risk. Elevated exposure ultimately appears to result from the confinement of remaining coastal koala habitat to the edges of permanent wetlands unsuitable for urban development and which produce large numbers of competent mosquito vectors.

… as retrovirus takes a toll:

Brinkwire has an article about research that found multiple links between the koala retrovirus (KoRV) and genes known to be involved in the kind of cancers to which koalas are prone. The entire koala population of Queensland and New South Wales in Australia now carry copies of KoRV in their genome.

https://en.brinkwire.com/science/race-for-survival-retroviruses-are-re-writing-the-koala-genome-and-causing-cancer/

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/lifz-rar022421.php

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21612-7.pdf

… at least some politicians care:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-83919-1

The Greens have introduced their proposed bill to stop land clearing of critical Koala habitat, with the intent to move for a Senate Inquiry into the bill.

https://www.miragenews.com/save-koala-laws-debated-in-517529/

Coastal Emus Endangered by speeding cars:

Mounting road deaths of Endangered coastal emus on Brooms Head Road is of concern, as locals call for more effective traffic calming.

https://clarencevalleynews.com.au/endangered-emu-becomes-road-kill/

Government releases fire-response plan:

The NSW Government has released its 5 year plan to support the recovery of biodiversity following the 2019–20 bushfires, it does take a rosy view of what they have been doing, never-the-less it has some merits and good proposals, though predictably ignores issues such as clearing and logging,

NSW Wildlife and Conservation Recovery: Medium-term response plan outlines actions the NSW Government (DPIE) will take over the next 1 to 5 years to support the recovery of biodiversity following the 2019–20 bushfires. Appendix A – NSW Koala Strategy: Bushfire Recovery Actions details actions the NSW Government will take to address koala recovery post-fire. Also included are Supplement A – Assessing the impact of the bushfires on wildlife and conservation, and Supplement B – Report on the Immediate Response January 2020.

The 5 year Response Plan identifies the raw statistics as 5.5 million ha burnt - 38% National Parks, 42% State Forests, 4% freehold land, 54% Gondwana Rainforests of Australia WHA, 25% koala habitat, and 51% heathlands. Within the fire grounds there has been a 39% reduction in ecological condition, a 39% reduction in ecological carrying capacity and 4% reduction in ecosystem persistence.

The medium-term bushfire recovery plan is based around eight themes and four aims, including: Ecological refuge areas should be identified and protected for the long term. Priority actions for identifying refugia are:

4.1.1 Build comprehensive maps of potential ecological refuge areas, linked to biological data and fire science

4.1.2 Identify habitat refuges for koalas across land tenures to optimise recovery actions and inform where to permanently protect koala habitat

They note:

Ecological refuges are places that naturally provide protection for plants and animals from threats (Selwood & Zimmer 2020). … Some ecological refuge areas are temporary, like the unburnt patches of vegetation that harbour the survivors of the 2019–20 bushfires. …

Other refuge areas, called refugia, provide longer-term protection, potentially over thousands of years. These persistent refugia are areas of long-term, continuous occupation by species, where multiple species survive environmental change and re-expand into newly available habitat as conditions improve  … Climate change also needs to be considered when identifying refuges and refugia.

I think they paint an overly-optimistic assessment of rainforest impacts in the Border Ranges, noting:

The results of the assessments show that some rainforest areas were less fire-affected than previously understood, including in Mount Nothofagus and Washpool national parks. However, other areas, such as the dry rainforests in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, were significantly impacted, with the loss of some rainforest patches.

… In New England National Park, some areas of cool temperate rainforest that were burnt at low to medium severity showed canopy death, demonstrating that some types of rainforest can be impacted even at low fire intensities.

Under suitable environmental conditions and given enough time and management, there are indications that impacted rainforests may recover. The greatest challenge will be protecting these areas from further fire to allow regeneration to occur. Considering the time scale, significant multi-generational commitment will be required to achieve this outcome.

For those concerned about erosion, DPIE has produced a model to predict the risk of hillslope erosion that is publicly available on SEED:

In early January 2020, DPIE produced a powerful state-wide model to predict the risk of hillslope erosion following the fires. This event-based model is one of a number of tools that land managers can use to assist erosion risk assessment and support land and water decision-making in areas impacted by the fires, including water catchments.

For those wanting to get involved they note “A key opportunity for volunteer participation in citizen science and recovery activities is the new SEED Citizen Science Digital Hub”.

Appendix A – NSW Koala Strategy is a disappointment, being silent about logging on all tenures, though it does identify:

Conservation actions across all types of land ownership and use will become increasingly important as refuge areas are identified. Prioritising conservation programs in these refuge areas is critical to prevent further loss and fragmentation of important koala habitat. It will also help to maintain connectivity across the landscape and protect koala populations and habitat into the future.

Supplement A identifies that in NSW 77 terrestrial fauna species are currently considered priorities for assessment due to the fires, 231 plants of national significance as being at greatest risk of global decline and/or extinction, 15 Threatened Ecological Communities have been burnt over more than 50% of their distribution and were identified to be at risk of significant declines in diversity, richness and ecological function, and 225 Plant Community Types (26%) were identified as being at high risk of declines in diversity, richness and function.

Supplement A identifies that many critical habitat attributes have been extensively lost or reduced by the bushfires, limiting the capacity of animal species to recover and repopulate burnt areas, including the Key Threatening Processes loss of hollow bearing trees and the removal of dead wood and dead trees. Warning:

There is ongoing potential for loss of species and populations and cascading ecological change from both drought and fires, especially if the fires become so frequent that plants cannot reach maturity and set seed between fires.

As warming continues, changes in climate and/or fire severity and behaviour may result in ecosystem changes. Rainforest areas, for instance, may change to eucalyptus forest or shrubland. Wetter forest types that are rarely affected by fire may become more prone to fire as fire-tolerant species replace fire-sensitive species.

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/research-and-publications/publications-search/wildlife-and-conservation-bushfire-recovery-medium-term-response-plan

https://www.nationaltribune.com.au/plan-to-protect-and-preserve-bushfire-affected-biodiversity/

… Transport NSW boss sacked for refusing direction to clear millions of trees along highway.

The Australian reports Transport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples was sacked by Mr Constance in February 2020 for refusing a directive to clear every tree within 40m of a state highway “in light of the recent catastrophic fires”. Even though Staples advised that it would likely be unlawful to remove the trees, Constance stated it was not “particularly acceptable” his directions were not followed.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/former-nsw-transport-secretary-rodd-staples-refused-orders-to-clear-trees-before-sacking/news-story/405d31ec444a07c6eb85f9968987aa28?btr=afdf52d402e11d229bc97a7ea4b2a9db

More arrests in Tasmania:

Four more forest protectors arrested. The Bob Brown Foundation (22/2/2021) reported:

Four forest defenders, including a retired organic gardener, a midwife, a law student and a nurse, have attached themselves to logging machinery.

“The logging in Wentworth Hills is out of control and needs to halt immediately to preserve old growth forests, critical carbon stores and wildlife habitat for rare and endangered species. Tasmania is losing ancient forests in Wentworth Hills at a rapid pace, some of the logging is happening at an altitude just below Hobart’s iconic Organ Pipes and trees as probably as old as 350 years old are being chainsawed,” Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager Jenny Weber said.

https://www.bobbrown.org.au/releases

https://www.townandcountrymagazine.com.au/story/7138139/more-arrests-as-bob-brown-forestry-protests-continue/

A saving grace for the Bob Brown Foundation, despite losing their legal challenge, on Friday the Federal Court ruled that each party in the proceedings would be required to pay their own legal costs.

The court concluded ‘this is an appropriate case to depart from the usual costs order and order that each part bear its own costs’.

“Today’s judgment has vindicated us bringing this important case to the Federal Court, proving the case is a matter of public importance,” Bob Brown said.

The expected costs were likely to exceed $300 000 of taxpayers’ funds spent by the Commonwealth and State Governments opposing our defence of Tasmania’s wild forests including the critically endangered Swift parrot.

https://www.bobbrown.org.au/releases

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7144446/parties-ordered-to-pay-their-own-costs-for-great-forest-case/

Australian Ecosystems Collapse:

A paper by 38 authors in Global Change Biology identifies 19 marine and terrestrial ecosystems across Australian and Antarctica undergoing collapse (defined as potentially irreversible change to ecosystem structure, composition and function) is occurring. These include a number of forest ecosystems, ranging from Wet tropical rainforest down to Tasmanian Gondwanan conifer forests, and from eastern Sub-alpine forests to western Mediterranean forests & woodlands.  Central east coast forests are not included, though they deserve to be.

The authors concluded that in the near future, even apparently resilient ecosystems are likely to suffer collapse as the intensity and frequency of pressures increase.

Co-author Leslie Williams hopes that “this paper will be a wake-up call for all Australians that value the natural environment and the services it provides. Without significant environmental investment, far stronger environmental protection, and rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the ecosystems that many now take for granted may disappear completely within the next decade.

As the plants and animals that live in these habitats decline, the services the ecosystems provide, underpinning our economic livelihoods, our health and well-being, will disappear. Ultimately, these thus transformations threaten our own survival”.

https://www.uow.edu.au/media/2021/stark-warning-combating-ecosystem-collapse-from-the-tropics-to-the-antarctic.php

https://lighthouse.mq.edu.au/article/february-2021/which-of-these-19-australian-ecosystems-will-succumb-to-climate-change-first

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/australian-scientists-sound-alarm-on-ecosystem-collapse-20210226-p5762n.html

Fire frequency increasing:

The Guardian has a special on the growing frequency of forest fires around the world due to climate change. It includes landsat images, with the comparison between Cape York and this region representing a warning for those wanting to replicate its burning regime.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2021/feb/19/how-fires-have-spread-to-previously-untouched-parts-of-the-world

The Guardian also reports on research that found more fierce and frequent fires are reducing forest density and tree size and may damage forests’ ability to capture carbon in the future

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/25/fiercer-more-frequent-fires-may-reduce-carbon-capture-forests

With widespread burning of south-west forests there are complaints that understories are being treated as fuel not habitat

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/darwin/programs/am/prescribed-burn-damage-sparks-debate-over-bushfire-mitigation/13171110

Nature has an article by Norman et. al. detailing why the 2019/20 wildfires were catastrophic and unprecedented, focusing on the need for our settlements “not to just bounce back, but to bounce forward as good resilient settlements must do, adapting and mitigating as they rebuild” if we want to avoid an apocalyptic future. They advocate retreating from risky areas, with some settlements in forests not rebuilt, and a focus on defendable self-sufficient  eco-villages with distributed energy and water systems, and electrification of transport, promoting the scenario:

Re-thinking our peri-urban/rural towns: the need for resilience to be built into all town planning and the consciousness of rural communities post the apocalypse makes it easier to replace the scattered approach to housing in vulnerable areas around the big cities and along coastlines, rivers and into forests. The focus is now on compact housing where Eco Villages are facilitated and other services can be better provided. New Towns along major train lines are built using the Eco Village model with strong resilience features and possible wider lessons for larger urban centres. Australians begin to see a better future is possible to rise out of the ashes of the apocalypse.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s42949-020-00013-7

Crossbenchers refuse to support Feds weakening of environmental laws:

Town and Country Magazine reports that independent senators Rex Patrick, Stirling Griff and Jacqui Lambie will not support Morrison’s handing environmental responsibility over to States unless there is a genuinely independent national environment watchdog and strong national environmental standards.

https://www.townandcountrymagazine.com.au/story/7137653/renewed-pressure-for-environment-watchdog/

The bill introduced to parliament on the 25 February was roundly criticised for fundamentally ignoring the recommendations from the recent Samuel Review

https://www.townandcountrymagazine.com.au/story/7142959/enviro-bill-sparks-animal-extinction-fears/

https://www.nationaltribune.com.au/half-measures-will-not-save-koala-from-extinction/

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/morrison-governments-new-environment-commissioner-toothless-conservation-groups-say/ar-BB1e03kB

Declining biodiversity:

The United Nations Environment Programme (2021) report ‘Making Peace with Nature: A scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies’ starts with the statement by Secretary-General of the United Nations:

Humanity is waging war on nature. This is senseless and suicidal. The consequences of our recklessness are already apparent in human suffering, towering economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth.

This report shows that we have the ability to transform our impact on the world. A sustainable economy driven by rene-wable energy and nature-based solutions will create new jobs, cleaner infrastructure and a resilient future. An inclusive world at peace with nature can ensure that people enjoy better health and the full respect of their human rights so they can live with dignity on a healthy planet.

The report is quite clear that we need a revolution in our approach:

Decades of incremental efforts have not stemmed the environmental decline resulting from an expansive development model because vested and short-term interests often prevail.

  • Only a system-wide transformation will achieve well-being for all within the Earth’s capacity to support life, provide resources and absorb waste. This transformation will involve a fundamental change in the technological, economic and social organization of society, including world views, norms, values and governance.

At the current rate, warming will reach 1.5°C by around 2040 and possibly earlier. Taken together, current national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions put the world on a pathway to warming of at least 3°C by 2100 …

Natural sinks today are only able to absorb around half of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, split between terrestrial ecosystems and the ocean. The increased uptake of carbon dioxide by the oceans is causing harmful ocean acidification.

Human skills need to be redeployed from transforming nature to transforming the social and economic fabric of society.

Strong environmental laws would protect ecosystems and the human enjoyment of a healthy environment, bolstered by consistent enforcement of laws and independent judiciaries.

Given the interconnected nature of climate change, loss of biodiversity, land degradation, and air and water pollution, it is essential that these problems are tackled together now

For example, large-scale reforestation with native vegetation can simultaneously help address climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation and water security.

A more extensive network of protected areas is needed in order to include key biodiversity currently not protected. Many protected areas are currently too small or isolated to be effective in the long term, given that climate change is shifting the geographic ranges of animal and plant species. Increasing connectivity between protected areas makes them more resilient to climate change and more able to sustain viable populations of threatened species. … A number of governments and NGOs are committing to or promoting the protection of 30 per cent of the land and oceans by 2030.

Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation Develop policies and strategies to integrate biodiversity conservation and restoration into the many uses of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, as well as expanding and improving protected areas. Drastically reduce deforestation and systematically restore forests and other ecosystems as the single largest nature-based opportunity for climate mitigation.

https://wedocs.unep.org/xmlui/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/34949/MPN_ESEN.pdf

https://environmentjournal.online/articles/transforming-humans-relationship-with-nature-is-key/

The Guardian reports that the UK government is seeking to dramatically increase tree planting to 30,000 hectares of new trees each year, with plantations sequestering carbon and helping the government reach net zero emissions by 2050, though the scheme has been criticised for spending taxpayers’ money on non-native plantations, some of which damage peatlands and imperil rare species and habitats.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/23/row-over-uk-tree-planting-drive-we-want-the-right-trees-in-the-right-place

DW report that the death of trees in Germany forests has reached a record level due to bark beetle infestations, storms, drought and forest fires.

https://www.dw.com/en/german-forest-decline-hits-record-levels/a-56680590

WWF and 15 NGOs have released a ‘World's Forgotten Fishes’ report, extolling the values and benefits of freshwater fish, commenting

Nowhere is the world’s biodiversity crisis more acute than in freshwater ecosystems. Around a third of freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction, and 80 species have already been declared Extinct. 

Since 1970, mega-fish populations have crashed by 94% on average, while migratory fish populations have fallen by 76%.

They are championing an Emergency Recovery Plan for freshwater biodiversity based on six-pillars:

  1. Let rivers flow more naturally;
    2. Improve water quality in freshwater ecosystems;
    3. Protect and restore critical habitats;
    4. End overfishing and unsustainable sand mining in rivers and lakes;
    5. Prevent and control invasions by non-native species, and;
    6. Protect free-flowing rivers and remove obsolete dams.

https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/freshwater_practice/the_world_s_forgotten_fishes/

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/techandscience/freshwater-fish-in-catastrophic-decline/ar-BB1dV8Jr

New Scientist shows graphically how our stewardship of the earth’s biodiversity is progressing. As dismal as these are I think they are a bit misleading as the momentum is rapidly escalating. We have taken over 52% of the land’s surface for our use, with a further 20% comprised of forests used for logging. Of the 28% remaining in a natural state, most is barren or non-forest, with relatively intact forests now comprising 9% of the land’s surface.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2268035-our-impact-on-earths-ecosystems-and-biodiversity-in-graphics/?utm_source=onesignal&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=2021-02-20-Our-impact-on-e

Its not all bad news for biodiversity, as identified in the journal Conservation Letters different initiatives have prevented up to 32 bird and 16 mammal extinctions since 1993. Protection of important habitats is of course important.

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/hope-springs-eternal-for-species-facing-extinction/

Animal Dangers

The Daily Telegraph reports there were 541 animal-related deaths reported to an Australian coroner between 2001 and 2017, with an average of 32 animal-related deaths reported per calendar year, with the most dangerous being horses with (172 killed), cows, bulls and other bovines (82 killed), and dogs (53 killed).

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/thesouthcoastnews/animal-attacks-jenny-brown-dave-styles-among-those-injured/news-story/356a534c0793a3388b8e4b5100ce064a?btr=af2d9c44b8b874c3a7c5e76449aedd09

A novel forest action:

Alison Gibbs has written the book Repentance about the conflict between loggers and forest protectors set in the 1970s. She grew up in north-east NSW. The book is touted as being a balanced view.
https://www.watoday.com.au/culture/books/when-the-huggers-and-loggers-come-together-to-live-love-and-argue-20210204-p56zgn.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_feed


Forest Media 19 February 2021

Burning forests for electricity not on:

The Nambucca Guardian had an in-depth story on biomass (with a focus on Way Way, Newry, Tarkeeth, and Redbank) in (citing Michael Jones, Susie Russell, Dailan Pugh)

https://www.nambuccaguardian.com.au/story/7118714/will-nambuccas-forests-be-burnt-for-electricity/

A group of over 500 international scientists have written to the president of the European Council, the president of the European Commission, the US president, the prime minister of Japan and the president of South Korea, asking them to intervene to end the practice of burning wood for energy at an industrial scale as it is seriously undermining efforts both to tackle climate change and to protect biodiversity.

https://www.climatechangenews.com/2021/02/11/time-end-subsidies-burning-wood-forests/

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/02/12/500-scientists-demand-stop-tree-burning-climate-solution

The letter, signed by Peter Raven Director Emeritus Missouri Botanical Society, states:

… We urge you not to undermine both climate goals and the world’s biodiversity by shifting from burning fossil fuels to burning trees to generate energy.

… In recent years, however, there has been a misguided move to cut down whole trees or to divert large portions of stem wood for bioenergy, releasing carbon that would otherwise stay locked up in forests.

The result of this additional wood harvest is a large initial increase in carbon emissions, creating a “carbon debt,” which increases over time as more trees are harvested for continuing bioenergy use. Regrowing trees and displacement of fossil fuels may eventually pay off this carbon debt, but regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change. As numerous studies have shown, this burning of wood will increase warming for decades to centuries. That is true even when the wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas.

The reasons are fundamental. Forests store carbon -approximately half the weight of dry wood is carbon. When wood is harvested and burned, much and often more than half of the live wood in trees harvested is typically lost in harvesting and processing before it can supply energy, adding carbon to the atmosphere without replacing fossil fuels. Burning wood is also carbon-inefficient, so the wood burned for energy emits more carbon up smokestacks than using fossil fuels. Overall, for each kilowatt hour of heat or electricity produced, using wood initially is likely to add two to three times as much carbon to the air as using fossil fuels.

Increases in global warming for the next few decades are dangerous. This warming means more immediate damages through more forest fires, sea level rise and periods of extreme heat in the next decades. It also means more permanent damages due to more rapid melting of glaciers and thawing of permafrost, and more packing of heat and acidity into the world’s oceans. These harms will not be undone even if we remove the carbon decades from now.

Government subsidies for burning wood create a double climate problem because this false solution is replacing real carbon reductions. Companies are shifting fossil energy use to wood, which increases warming, as a substitute for shifting to solar and wind, which would truly decrease warming.

To avoid these harms, governments must end subsidies and other incentives that today exist for the burning of wood whether from their forests or others. …

Trees are more valuable alive than dead both for climate and for biodiversity. To meet future net zero emission goals, your governments should work to preserve and restore forests and not to burn them.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hdmmcnd0d1d2lq5/Scientist%20Letter%20to%20Biden%2C%20von%20der%20Leyen%2C%20Michel%2C%20Suga%20%26%20Moon%20%20Re.%20Forest%20Biomass%20%28February%2011%2C%202021%29.pdf?dl=0

Forestry and EPA at Loggerheads.

The story of the week is the feud between Forestry Corporation and the EPA over logging of burnt forests, particularly in the south east, with the Forestry Corporation refusing to comply with the Site Specific Operating Conditions (SSOCs) anymore and the EPA threatening to prosecute them for causing environmental harm. The interesting aspect is that the EPA’s SSOCs are legal requirements, so if they are not complied with they are legal breaches. The story in The Guardian is best. The second SMH article cites a variety of documents identifying Barilaro a putting the pressure on.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/17/logging-to-resume-in-bushfire-affected-forests-on-nsw-south-coast-despite-environmental-warning?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/environmental-watchdog-to-step-up-surveillance-after-forest-talks-fail-20210217-p573f4.html

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/state-government-agencies-at-war-over-logging-forests-ruined-by-fire-20210218-p573qt.html

The EPA’s press release stated:

Based on expert advice and the literature, the EPA is of the view that site specific conditions are the most effective way of managing the environmental risks associated with harvesting in landscapes that have been so extensively and severely impacted by fire.

The EPA has been working to negotiate updated site specific conditions based on current knowledge of the impact of the fires, and to identify and implement a long-term approach to manage the risks posed by timber harvesting in the post-fire landscapes of coastal NSW.

FCNSW has now withdrawn from those discussions around logging on the South Coast.

The EPA expects to receive advice from FCNSW regarding additional voluntary measures they intend to apply to manage the impacts of logging operations. These will not be enforceable by the EPA under the current rules.

In response to the decision of FCNSW, the EPA will further increase its regulatory oversight of future logging operations.

The EPA has a statutory objective to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in NSW having regard to the need to maintain ecologically sustainable development. Where the EPA identifies non-compliance, it will take appropriate regulatory action.

FCNSW is authorised by the NSW Government to undertake forestry operations under the Forestry Act 2012, and must comply with the IFOA rules.

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2021/epamedia210216-epa-statement---update-on-forestry-regulation

Sue Arnold attacks Barilaro for earlier over-riding the advice of the EPA by insisting that burnt forests be logged to satisfy timber commitments irrespective of environmental and resource impacts. She also focusses on the inability for third-party enforcement (cites Dailan Pugh).

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/barilaro-overrules-epa-ramps-up-logging-funnels-bushfire-grants-to-loggers/

Gladys retiring?

There is an intriguing story in Pearls and Irritations that Gladys Berejiklian is soon going to jump ship (March-June), with NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet set to replace her, with Matt Kean as his running mate. Could be interesting times.

https://johnmenadue.com/unruly-scenes-as-removalists-arrive-for-premier-gladys/

EPBC Act:

The big national issue is the review of the EPBC Act and the Coalition’s intent to hand its responsibilities for Matters of National Environmental Significance over to the states for determination, without the strong National Environmental Standards recommended by Professor Samuel’s review. Strangely everyone seems to have seen the Government’s piss-weak national standards except the states. The Guardian reports that there’s little support for the Government’s approach from key cross-benchers or the ALP.

Article: Sydney Morning Herald 13 February 2021

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/11/morrison-government-flouts-own-review-by-proposing-watered-down-environmental-standards

An article in VICE World News takes it down to the species level, lamenting our horrible extinction record and the failure of the EPBC Act to reverse the decline.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/akd8a5/weak-environmental-policies-killing-koalas-australia-wildlife-extinction

And the Guardian has an article highlighting the sham that offsetting is, with the example that the offset for clearing 1,780ha of bushland for the Badgerys Creek airport was to protect a similar sized area that was already protected.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/17/development-should-stop-serious-flaws-in-offsets-plan-for-new-western-sydney-airport

Baby faced Koalas an iconic issue, so cute everyone wants one:

The reason we find Koalas so appealing is because they remind us of kids, and their successful “anthropomorpism” as characters such as Norman Lindesay’s Bunyip Bluegum and Blinky Bill.

https://theconversation.com/why-do-we-love-koalas-so-much-because-they-look-like-baby-humans-153619

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/news/current-affairs/why-are-koalas-so-cute-its-all-in-their-likeness-to-human-babies-new-research-shows-20210219-h1u4c8

The ABC has an in-depth article about the threats faced by Koalas, citing the primary problem being the direct and indirect impacts of habitat loss, with climate change a growing problem. It advocates stewardship payments for landholders.  Meanwhile the Tim Flannery special on Are We Killing Our Koalas takes a different tact, largely ignoring logging and habitat loss, and effectively saying that while it’s a shame that NSW and Queensland are losing their Koalas, its all OK because we can repopulate with South Australia’s inbred Koalas. An article in Wagga’s Daily Advertiser cites the example of Narrandera’s successful translocation of Victorian Koalas to support the Green’s advocating establishing another colony in urban Wagga. And Gunnedah is about to get a 50 acre Gunnedah Koala Sanctuary, run by Council and tourism operator CAPTA, with a koala hospital, petting zoo, wildlife centre and accommodation. Why worry about logging when we can have open air Koala zoos as tourist attractions everywhere.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-02-17/koalas-on-way-to-extinction-parts-australia-how-to-avoid-it/13141628

https://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/are-we-killing-our-koalas/13161298

Article: The Daily Advertiser 17 Feb 2021

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/02/19/gunnedah-koala-sanctuary-one-step-closer-to-fruition/

Revelations that Kangaroos and Koalas living in plantations adjacent to Alcoa's Portland aluminium smelter had deformed bones and teeth as a result of fluorosis, a condition linked to the facility's fluoride emissions, with 40 Koalas having to be euthanised.  Koalas are also breaking through the perimeter fence and suffering horrible injuries.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-15/portland-aluminium-smelter-fluoride-impacts-on-koalas/13144624

https://au.news.yahoo.com/review-ordered-after-103-koalas-wander-into-alcoa-smelter-site-120650881.html?

The Myall Koala and Environment Group focuses on tree planting and bush regeneration.

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/myall-koalas-supporting-a-species-in-crisis-64904

And Port Macquarie-Hastings Council are building koala stiles across the entire LGA to assist koalas to safely get across road fences.

https://www.camdencourier.com.au/story/7129285/council-takes-another-step-in-the-fight-to-save-our-cuddly-koalas/

Federally the Greens attempted to introduce legislation to prevent the Federal Environment Minister from approving new mines or developments in koala habitat.

https://www.miragenews.com/greens-introduce-new-laws-to-save-our-514102/

The economic benefits of the Great Koala National Park had another run.

https://clarencevalleynews.com.au/the-great-koala-national-park/

Fragmentation causes stress and disease:

A South American study found that small mammals were more stressed in smaller forest fragments than those in larger patches, which can lead to increases in disease and the risk of diseases moving into human populations.

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/02/small-mammals-feel-the-stress-as-forests-shrink-with-possible-fallout-for-humans/

The study compared small and large habitat fragments in Argentina finding “that the levels of the glucocorticoids cortisol and corticosterone differed in small mammals based on (1) the size of the forest fragment where the individuals lived; (2) the trapping method used, probably due to stress of confinement upon capture”, concluding “individuals living in heavily disturbed habitats may experience more physiological challenges than individuals in more intact habitats

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-81073-2

Are our alpine forests doomed?:

Since the beginning of this century a series of wildfires have devastated our Alpine ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) and Mountain ash (E. regnans) forests, as they require 20 years to set seeds and many stands have been burnt more frequently. Snow Gums have also been suffering fire losses, though now there is rising concern as attacks by a longicorn beetle is ringbarking trees and causing widespread dieback above1600 metres.

https://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/7130683/cant-see-the-trees-for-the-forest/?cs=307

There is a podcast at:

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7117837/voice-of-real-australia-podcast/

Snow-gum dieback refers to the death of snow-gum species as a consequence of infestation by a wood-boring longicorn beetle. Larvae, feeding on the outer layers of wood and inner layers of bark, ring-bark affected trees. The canopy of affected trees gradually declines in health and dies. In most instances infestation ends with the complete death of the tree, and in the most severe cases, the entire stand. Although snow-gum dieback is known to have occurred sporadically throughout the latter part of the twentieth century, the current outbreak appears to eclipse the extent of earlier outbreaks.

https://www.saveoursnowgum.org/dieback

Beware the zombie trees:

On occasion trees can live on after they are apparently killed, their stumps kept alive by a mysterious force which is likely the symbiotic relationships they formed with mycorrhiza and root grafts with other trees – leading to a view that forest ecosystems are superorganisms.  

https://theconversation.com/the-mysterious-existence-of-a-leafless-kauri-stump-kept-alive-by-its-forest-neighbours-121804

If you are scared by zombies you can monitor logging from the safety of your armchair:

Starting with audio detectors using an old mobile phone, solar panels and a microphone, the group Rainforest Connection has teamed up with major companies to place audio detectors in a dozen countries. The recorders send audio to a central facility where artificial intelligence is used to pick out desired information, from the sounds of logging to bird calls. It can identify logging in real time, as well as enabling remote fauna surveys.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/15/asia-pacific/illegal-logging-sensors/

https://www.sightmagazine.com.au/features/19003-illegal-logging-treetop-sensors-help-indonesia-eavesdrop-on-forests

The World Resources Institute has upgraded its Global Forest Watch to make it possible to monitor what’s happening to distant tropical forests almost in real time through satellite imagery.

https://wamu.org/story/21/02/15/pillagers-of-tropical-forests-cant-hide-behind-clouds-anymore/

This is a useful site for deforestation data, down to a LGA level. I had a brief look at the real time disturbance data. It is primarily aimed at tropical rainforests, with the highest resolution data not covering Australia. The GLAD mapping only covers to 30o S (ie sth of Grafton) and I was not convinced it adequately represented eucalypt forest cover or logging – though it deserves further assessment. It displays conservation reserves and LGAs, but not state forests. Disturbances can be identified over any time period since 2015, which is a useful feature.

 https://www.globalforestwatch.org/

March 21 International Day for Forests:

The United Nations General Assembly declared 21 March as International Day of Forests. The theme for 2021 is "Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being".

https://krishijagran.com/blog/international-day-of-forests-2021-reafforestation-is-the-key-to-recovery-well-being/


Forest Media 12 February 2021

Red legged Pademelons doing well after fires, Long-nosed Potoroos not so well, and Golden-tipped bats badly. Another report emphasises that logging increases blazing. Concerns that logs from Way Way may be being burnt for electricity. Governments invest $1 million into genetically sequencing Koalas, Kean repeats his refrain “the biggest single threat to koala populations is the loss and fragmentation of their habitat”. Highway offsets north from Hexham lead to 9,000 ha new reserves and biodiversity stewardship agreements. Byron Bay wildlife hospital to build a raptor aviary.

Tasmania forest wars spark up, with a woodchip mill blockade and loggers violence. In Western Australia forest protectors are doing an advertising blitz in the lead-up to the State election. Commonwealth parliamentary inquiry recommends locking up cats at night, though doesn’t address their daytime slaughter of birds and reptiles.

As Governments dither and seek to avoid their responsibilities, frustration grows with Federal and State inaction and lack of coordination to combat climate change and protect forests and biodiversity (including Koalas).  As Scott Morrison is wedged by Biden into maybe, possibly, having to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Nationals are as revolting as usual, doing their best to frustrate any action. Meanwhile research finds that trees are better at taking up carbon than thought as atmospheric carbon increases. Now a satellite is being launched to accurately weigh the carbon of the world’s forests.

American forests are being ravished by successive plagues of voracious insects and fungi let loose through ballooning global trade, weak regulatory systems and sheer carelessness. In Gabon rising temperatures are resulting in less fruit and starving elephants.

Researchers find that broad-acre commodity farms dramatically dry out landscapes and increase temperatures compared to small scale agriculture that preserves some vegetation cover. Others find that plantings of fast growing trees transpire more water and dry out soils, compared to slow growing species.

The UK Treasury has published a report calling for the inclusion of environmental values to balance the books, as using up the resources of 1.6 earths is clearly unbalanced. In the EU’s Nature Trade computer algorithms are used to quantify benefits from nature (such as carbon storage, pollination, recreation) derived on someone's land so they can be paid for them.

The ABC’s Country Hour has been attacked as a National Party echo chamber.

Dailan Pugh  

Fire affects on mammals:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-07/scientists-report-card-on-threatened-species/13113582

Since bushfires burned through World Heritage forests in 2019 there have been fears for the already threatened animals that may have perished in the flames.

"Our study found that the activity of long-nosed potoroos and red-legged pademelons in the national parks did not change following small-scale ecological burns," he said.

"The surprise has been that the red-legged pademelon is highly abundant, with numbers far higher than they were in 2016 are 2017," he said.

"The implications are that the red-legged pademelon seems to have coped very well with the fires across Nightcap, Tooloom and Gibraltar."

But the picture is not as bright for the long-nosed potoroo.

"We have detected long-nosed potoroos in both burned and unburned sites within Gibraltar Range National Park and Nightcap National Park," Mr McHugh said.

"But we're yet to detect them in burnt or unburnt forest in Tooloom National Park."

Another rainforest creature especially vulnerable to the impact of wildfire is the small, insect-eating golden-tipped bat.

"Although we've recorded one bat in a severely burnt forest, we generally have not seen the golden-tipped bats in those high severity burn sites."

Logging increases blazing:

https://www.miragenews.com/logging-and-thinning-of-forests-can-increase-512332/

Logging can make native forests more flammable and lead to greater fire severity for decades, while ‘mechanical thinning’ can also increase fire risk.

These are two of the key findings of an expert review of published scientific research by The Bushfire Recovery Project – a joint project between Griffith University and the Australian National University to provide the Australian community with a scientific understanding of bushfires.

The review used the data and findings of 51 peer-reviewed studies, including those that compared how hot or severe fire burned in different areas during the same fires, to assess the impact logging has on bushfires.

Other key findings include:

  • The key contributor to increased bushfires and resultant damage is climate change
  • Native forest logging increases the severity at which forests burn, beginning roughly 10 years after logging and continuing at elevated levels for another 30+ years
  • The likelihood of “crown burn” (when the forest canopy is burned) is about 10% in old growth forest versus 70% in forest logged 15 years ago. This drops steeply as the forest continues to age, but remains elevated for decades
  • The mechanism is likely that after logging removal of the forest canopy means thousands of young trees regrow, creating an increased fuel load. Many of those young trees then die, becoming dry and highly flammable
  • The lack of canopy following logging also results in increased drying of the young plants and soil by the sun and wind, and greater wind speeds on days with extreme fire danger

The reviewed studies found ‘mechanical thinning’ does not decrease fire risk. For example, a study on Alpine Ash forest in Victoria showed ‘mechanical thinning’ reduced the surface fuel, however, increased coarse woody debris by 50% and increased the density of saplings tenfold.

https://www.bushfirefacts.org/uploads/1/3/2/1/132188020/f_bushfire_science_report_no._3_-_bushfires_and_logging.pdf

Burning forests for biomass?

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/environmentalists-claim-native-hardwoods-are-being-woodchipped-for-biofuel-64756

Two environmentalists have raised the possibility that native forest timber is being used for fuel in Way Way Forest near Macksville on the Mid North Coast of NSW.

Frank Dennis, a spokesperson from No Electricity From Forests” (NEFF), has said that “The government, and sections of the timber industry, seems intent on continuing their ‘war on forests’ here on the North Coast.

He claimed, “Their serious mission for years has been to provide a supply of small logs to the burgeoning worldwide market for wood pellets, forest biomass and to burn as fuel to produce electricity both here and overseas in countries like Japan”.

Mr. Jones and Mr. Dennis say that new forestry rules will allow 140,000 hectares of forests to be virtually clear-felled from south of Taree to Grafton, in areas of up to 60 hectares (previously 0.25hectares), converting complex forests types into single species monocultures, mainly blackbutts.

As well, burning wood for electricity produces more CO2 than burning coal and it takes decades for trees to grow and tie up the carbon again.

They say that large volumes of native timber are required to keep this industry going and the claim that “waste” timber, only, is to be used is totally misleading.

Genetic sequencing of Koalas:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/new-genetic-tools-to-stop-koalas-other-species-going-down-the-drain-20210211-p571kh.html

Dozens of Australian species headed for the “extinction cliff” including koalas will have their genomes sequenced to help protect them from threats such as disease and climate change.

A $1 million investment from the NSW and federal governments will kick off the program to assess the genetic variation of hundreds of koalas in NSW, Queensland and northern Victoria. The methods will later be applied to as many as 50 other species ranging from frogs to birds and others at risk.

NSW has 49 distinct populations of the marsupial and researchers want to collect samples for at least 20 animals in each.

“We know koalas are hugely under threat from a range of factors including disease,” Mr Kean said, adding that “we know the biggest single threat to koala populations is the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. So everything else will count for nothing if we don’t protect their habitat.”

In the past, many species would have adapt to shifts in the climate or from other threats by moving. Land-clearing by humans has made that much more difficult for koalas and other species.

“If you fragment the landscape so badly how are they ever going to retract to those areas of climate refugia that they can expand from?” Dr Hogg said.

https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2021/02/11/koala-funding-for-university-of-sydney-to-sequence-genomes.html

Highway offsets:

https://www.roadsonline.com.au/pacific-highway-flora-and-fauna-protection-program-begins/

A rehabilitation program for threatened flora and fauna has begun at Teven as part of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade biodiversity offset program.

A 220 hectare property at Teven has been given to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to continually protect native wildlife and vegetation along the highway.

[Paul Toole] “These Teven wetlands is just another example of how we’re getting on with the job of delivering road projects that make a real difference to locals while ensuring the environment they treasure is protected.”

Ben Franklin said other sustainability initiatives used … fuelling a biomass-fired power generator with green waste.

“On top of that, biodiversity offsets provide an opportunity for landowners to receive a guaranteed long-term income in return for managing some or all of their land for wildlife.”

The Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade will see more than 3600 hectares of land protected. Private landowners will manage about 1400 hectares of this land through biodiversity stewardship agreements.

In total the Pacific Highway projects have provided around 9000 hectares of biodiversity offsets between Hexham and the Queensland border.

Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital expands to include raptors:

https://www.thirdsector.com.au/free-flight-aviary-to-rise-in-northern-rivers-nsw-for-birds-of-prey/

Injured Australian birds of prey will soon be rehabilitated in a new free flight aviary located in Northern Rivers NSW and operated by Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife’s “Wildlife Heroes” program.

“Round aviaries allow raptors to generate enough speed to take off and land as they would in their natural habitat.” It’s a critically important factor in successful rehabilitation,” she said.

In NSW alone, over 1000 a year are hit by cars, caught in barbed wire, shot or caught in rabbit traps and suffer poisoning through pesticides, causing horrendous injuries and often death.

“Having the free-flight aviary located at just 2km away from the Wildlife Hospital means we can get them into rehabilitation very quickly, significantly improving their prospects of being released back into the wild.”

Tasmania forest wars spark up:

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7115723/government-consultation-plan-labelled-a-broken-promise/

The government's plan to move 25,000 hectares of forestry land into the reserve or conservation system doesn't go far enough to protect the world heritage values of the area, says the Greens.

The land apart of the Western Tiers and already sits within the World Heritage Area.

Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said the decision to exclude the option for the area to become a national park from the consultation constituted a broken promise by the government.

"This is an area that has recognised world heritage and national park values, it has been recommended to be made a national park by UNESCO itself and yet the best this government can do is conduct a consultation process over two lower conservation status options.

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7124268/two-charged-at-bell-bay-protest-as-log-trucks-bank-up/

About 50 log trucks banked up at the entrance to Artec's woodchip mill at Bell Bay on Friday morning after a protest from the Bob Brown Foundation, which resulted in two arrests and heightened tensions.

About 20 protesters scaled a 30-metre loading gantry to gain access to the site overnight, and two people used barrels to chain themselves to an entry gate, preventing access. It was the first woodchip mill protest in Tasmania for a decade.

Police used trolleys to transport the two protesters and barrels out of the way of the gates about 11am, allowing for the trucks to begin depositing their logs for woodchipping.

It came after recent protests at Wentworth Hills in the Central Highlands, in which protesters "immobilised" logging machinery on Wednesday.

https://tasmps.greens.org.au/media-release/forest-defenders-highlight-tasmania

Tasmania Police must investigate the violent and threatening actions of Artec employees and log truck drivers towards forest defenders from Bob Brown Foundation at the Bell Bay woodchip mill.

Protestors were shoved, chased around the site with threats of violence, driven at in vehicles, and their car tyres were slashed.

Under the Liberals and Resources Minister, Guy Barnett, native forest logging for woodchips is intensifying.

This is a crime against Nature. The Premier and Minister for Climate Change, Peter Gutwein, should be utterly and deeply ashamed of the ecological tragedy unfolding on his watch.

West Australians ramp up campaign for election:

https://www.bunburymail.com.au/story/7121301/forest-protection-up-in-lights/

The WA Forest Alliance have turned to digital billboards to push its cause in the lead up to the election.

"The weight of public opinion is firmly behind protecting native forests.

"Recent polling shows that 78 per cent of West Australians support the protection of the South West's native forests and timber production coming from plantations.

"Now we need Government policy to reflect community views.

"Every single day in the South West, 10 football fields of Karri and Jarrah forests are logged and cleared - with 85 per cent of the wood sold going to woodchip, firewood, charcoal and mill-waste.

"This is a shocking waste of precious forests that we need now more than ever to be removing carbon from the atmosphere, bringing rain and providing homes and food for wildlife.

Cat curfew:

https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/calls-for-nighttime-cat-curfew-to-address-australian-feral-cat-pandemic/news-story/ac1680face094b61c6826cecac22bee3?btr=a77799accdbc028769ef7fe19e598ce4

Cat owners could be required to lock up their pets at night as part of a new plan to protect native wildlife.

The proposal is one of several recommendations from a parliamentary inquiry looking at ways to tackle the feral cat pandemic and protect Australian native animals.

One of the recommendations is to establish “new strategies for the management and control of domestic cats, including such measures as increased support for desexing, registration and microchipping, a consideration of night curfews, and a national cat ownership education campaign”.

“Feral cats kill over three billion native animals a year which equates to a kill rate of more than 1100 per cat”, said inquiry chair and Member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien.

https://theconversation.com/australia-must-control-its-killer-cat-problem-a-major-new-report-explains-how-but-doesnt-go-far-enough-154931?utm

Cats kill a staggering 1.7 billion native animals each year, and have played a major role in most of Australia’s 34 mammal extinctions. They continue to pose an extinction threat to at least another 120 species.

A recent parliamentary inquiry into the problem of feral and pet cats in Australia has affirmed the issue is indeed of national significance. The final report, released last week, calls for a heightened, more effective, multi-pronged and coordinated policy, management and research response.

The report recommends Australia’s 3.8 million pet cats be subject to night-time curfews. This measure would benefit native nocturnal mammals, but won’t save birds and reptiles, which are primarily active during the day.

Pet cats kill 83 million native reptiles and 80 million native birds in Australia each year. From a wildlife perspective, keeping pet cats contained 24/7 is the only responsible option.

Stopping pet cats from roaming is also good for the cats, which live longer, safer lives when kept exclusively indoors. It would also substantially reduce the number of people falling ill from cat-dependent diseases each year.

One of the inquiry’s flagship recommendations is a national conservation project dubbed “Project Noah”. This would involve an ambitious expansion of Australia’s existing network of reserves free from introduced predators, both on islands and in mainland fenced areas. The reserves provide havens — or a fleet of “arks” — for vulnerable native wildlife.

This measure is vital. 2019 research found Australia has more than 65 native mammal species and subspecies that can’t persist, or struggle to persist, in places with even very low numbers of cats or foxes. This includes the bilby, numbat, quokka, dibbler and black-footed rock wallaby.

But in many parts of Australia, broad-scale habitat management is a more cost-effective way to reduce cat harm. This involves making habitat less suitable for cats and more suitable for native wildlife, for example, by reducing rabbit numbers, fire frequency and grazing by feral herbivores such as cattle and horses.

Governments fail the environment:

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/reviews-find-federal-and-state-laws-fail-to-protect-the-environment-64574

CONSERVATIONISTS are often referred to as ‘greenies’ with the implication that they don’t understand the realities of living in the country.

However, these greenies, and many ‘ordinary’ people, who are frustrated with Federal and State inaction and lack of coordination to combat climate change and protect forests and biodiversity, have enjoyed some validation in recent government commissioned reviews.

At a state level, the Auditor General’s review of planning for securing regional water supply found that, since 2014, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has “lacked a strategic, evidence-based approach to target investments in town water infrastructure”

The Bellingen Shire Council recently passed a resolution to ask the State Water Minister to respond to this review because the Council wants to see a positive response that helps local government keep water supply secure and affordable.

He found that Federal environmental laws have failed to protect Australia’s unique wildlife, plants and ecosystems from land-use change, habitat loss, feral animals and invasive plant species.

Professor Samuel wrote, “The impact of climate change on the environment will exacerbate pressures and contribute to further decline.”

Both Federal and NSW State Governments have their own reports that recommend that improvements must be made to protect the environment, and surveys indicate that up to eighty percent of Australians also want effective protection.

https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/governments-across-australia-failing-koalas,14779

One could be forgiven for believing that Australia’s state and federal governments have a pathological hatred for not only koalas but any policy that insists on environmental protection for wildlife. 

The Queensland Government’s koala management policy can be readily identified. It consists of producing endless koala strategies which are not implemented but useful for policy propaganda as koala habitat destruction grows exponentially.

No amount of hype can take away from the simplicity of the environmental dilemma facing koalas.   Bulldoze koala habitat and the result will be no koalas. It’s that simple.

Berejiklian’s first action after her election was to abolish the Office of Environment and Heritage, leaving the environment in the portfolio of Planning Minister Rob Stokes.  This represents a clear conflict of interests.

No changes in government policy or forestry activities resulted in response to Dr Smith’s report.

The Forestry Corporation has been allowed to continue logging in “lightly" burned forests, targeting primary koala hubs according to local ecologists.  NSW forests are also being logged for 'renewable energy'.

No amount of public protest, scientific concern and the sheer extent of devastation left by the bushfires has raised one iota of legitimate response by governments.

https://www.sydneysun.com/news/267783370/governments-across-australia-failing-koalas

Feds washing hands of threatened species

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/06/foi-documents-show-scott-morrison-has-bungled-environment-law-reform-labor-says

Federal officials warned against transferring environmental approval powers to state governments before a major review of conservation laws was complete, saying it could undermine hopes of substantial reform.

Documents obtained by Guardian Australia under freedom of information laws detail meetings between senior federal environment department officials and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia in late 2019 and early 2020.

The documents show the chamber lobbied for a handover of federal decision-making powers to Western Australia before the once-in-a-decade review of national environmental laws was complete.

Officials said the department did not believe a transfer of approval powers was the best way to make the environmental assessment process more efficient.

They instead recommended making improvements to streamlined assessment processes – known as bilateral assessment agreements, under which the commonwealth retains its decision-making powers.

A spokesperson for the environment minister, Sussan Ley, said the documents pre-dated the review. He said departmental discussions “by nature canvass a variety of options” and were not advice to a minister, and that all states and territories now supported a transfer of approval powers.

Making agriculture carbon neutral:

https://theconversation.com/nationals-push-to-carve-farming-from-a-net-zero-target-is-misguided-and-dangerous-154822?utm

Prime Minister Scott Morrison might be warming to the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack has thrown a spanner in the works by suggesting agriculture be excluded from the target.

But the Nationals’ push is deeply misguided. …

Livestock such as cattle and sheep produce methane when they digest plant material. This gas makes up about 70% of Australia’s agricultural emissions.

In 2019, agriculture produced almost 13% of Australia’s national emissions, or 69 million tonnes. Land clearing for agriculture also drives deforestation in Australia, which is responsible for about 30 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year. Combined, the emissions comprised about 18% of annual emissions in 2019 – equal to the transport sector.

Research I published last year proposed one solution: pairing agriculture emissions with forestry “sinks” – an area of trees and soil that suck up carbon dioxide.

Research has shown the land sector could potentially achieve net-zero emissions by 2030, using carbon sinks and a mass reduction in land clearing.

https://theconversation.com/view-from-the-hill-michael-mccormack-buffeted-by-nationals-climate-battle-154841?utm

But even with the carve out of agriculture, and other aid for farmers, a move to the target is being strongly resisted by former resources minister Matt Canavan and some other Nationals backbenchers. Canavan, interviewed on Sky, said he was prepared to “fight like hell”.

“I don’t think we should be talking about the weather in 30 years time” but instead concentrating on more pressing matters, he said.

The National Farmers Federation reiterated on Monday “farming and agriculture cannot be worse off going forward with any carbon commitments or emissions reduction schemes”.

“Care needs to be taken that agricultural land does not get transferred into carbon sinks that are subeconomic, havens for feral plants and animals and a fire risk.

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/no-law-to-set-target-ministers-stare-down-nats-complaint-on-carbon-20210209-p570zm.html

Federal ministers are planning to neutralise a backbench threat on climate change by making sure a new carbon target will not be mandated by law, avoiding a vote in Parliament that could rock the government.

Australian National University Professor Warwick McKibbin said a binding emissions target was one of several critical policies required to achieve lower emissions with the least economic harm.

The warning came as three former Nationals ministers – Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan and Bridget McKenzie – warned they would reject a net zero target that imposed costs on rural Australia.

Trees are better than we thought:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208185117.htm

New research from West Virginia University biologists shows that trees around the world are consuming more carbon dioxide than previously reported, making forests even more important in regulating the Earth's atmosphere and forever shift how we think about climate change.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Richard Thomas and alumnus Justin Mathias (BS Biology, '13 and Ph.D. Biology, '20) synthesized published tree ring studies. They found that increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the past century have caused an uptick in trees' water-use efficiency, the ratio of carbon dioxide taken up by photosynthesis to the water lost by transpiration -- the act of trees "breathing out" water vapor.

"We've shown that over the past century, photosynthesis is actually the overwhelming driver to increases in tree water use efficiency, which is a surprising result because it contradicts many earlier studies," Mathias said. "On a global scale, this will have large implications potentially for the carbon cycle if more carbon is being transferred from the atmosphere into trees."

Since 1901, the intrinsic water use efficiency of trees worldwide has risen by approximately 40% in conjunction with an increase of approximately 34% in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Both of these characteristics increased approximately four times faster since the 1960s compared to the previous years.

Weighing in on the world’s forests:

https://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2021-02-12/new-satellite-aims-to-help-see-the-forest-for-the-trees

A new satellite which will 'weigh' the world's forests is being built at a Stevenage space technology firm.

Airbus Space and Defence is currently building the European Space Agency (ESA) Biomass probe.

Biomass is due to launch next year and will measure forest biomass to assess terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes for five years.

The spacecraft will carry innovative technology to provide exceptionally accurate maps of tropical, temperate and boreal forest biomass that are not obtainable by ground measurement techniques.

A plethora of plagues:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/06/opinion/epidemic-invasive-species-trees.html

It’s not just humans. Trees also suffer plagues.

In the past 120 years, voracious insects and fungi have swept across North America with frightening regularity, laying low the chestnut, the elm, the hemlock and, most recently, the ash. Each of those trees anchored natural ecosystems, and human economies and cultures. And while climate change and wildfires grab the headlines, invasive species have so far proved to be a far greater threat to forest biodiversity in the temperate world.

These plagues have also amplified climate change. Research has found that rotting trees killed in the United States by forest pests release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate within the same order of magnitude as wildfires.

But far less attention has gone to stemming the expanding tide of plagues that humans, through ballooning global trade, weak regulatory systems and sheer carelessness, have inflicted on trees. If we want forests to protect us, we first need to protect them.

Rainforest fruit production crashing:

https://theconversation.com/fruit-famine-is-causing-elephants-to-go-hungry-in-gabon-152757

[Gabon] In our recently published paper we analysed 32 years of valuable data about tree behaviour and found that – between 1986 and 2018 – there was a massive collapse in fruiting events.

This has resulted in a fruit famine and, based on a body condition score applied to archived photographs, an 11% decline in the physical condition of the elephants at our study area since 2008.

Our analysis found that there was an 81% decline in the probability of encountering ripe fruit. This means that, on average, elephants and other animals would have found ripe fruit on one in every 10 trees in the 1980s, but need to search more than 50 trees today. We found matching declines in flowering too, indicating that the problem is not pollination or fruit maturation but something earlier on in the chain of fruit production.

Caroline Tutin. In 1993 she discovered that some Lopé tree species depend on a critical drop in night-time temperatures during the long dry season to trigger flowering. In years when temperatures in the dry season did not dip below 19ºC these species produced no fruit and in an unusual year when this same drop in temperature occurred outside the dry season, some of these species produced fruit out of season.

Clearing dries and heats regions, more so with intensive agriculture:

https://www.miragenews.com/large-scale-commodity-farming-accelerating-511421/

Eduardo Maeda from the University of Helsinki and colleagues used satellite data to compare areas dominated by different land uses and farm sizes to evaluate their impacts on the regional climate. Although small rural settlements experienced no clear changes in rainfall during recent decades, areas dominated by commodity farms have become significantly drier. Areas of commodity farming also experienced a much higher increase in temperature, in comparison with small-scale rural settlements, largely due to intense management of commercial crops leading to reduced vegetation cover throughout the year and decreased plant transpiration. According to the authors, mitigating climate change in the Amazon basin will require alternatives to current commodity farming practices.

Tropical forests act as a water pump, getting water from the land surface and throwing it back into the atmosphere. Because this process requires energy, it causes a reduction in the surface temperature. The water that returns to the atmosphere, often falls back into the forest in the form of rain. The trees then becomes a critical component of a complex water recycling machine, which guarantee that the forest is kept always moist. When the forest is removed, the water returning to the atmosphere is reduced, and the unused energy contributes to increase local temperatures.

The research by Maeda and colleagues demonstrate that this process is further aggravated by large commodity farms.

Although areas dominated by small rural settlements also experience temperature increase, the magnitude of the changes are substantially smaller than those observed in big commodity farms. The authors of the study argue that the main reason is because these small rural settlements are often less managed, leaving a denser and more continuous vegetation cover than in the large monoculture farms.

According to the research, this means that agricultural activities need to be better integrated with the natural Amazon ecosystem. Agroforestry is for example an interesting alternative, as it seeks to manage forest services and agriculture at the same time, improving soil fertility, increasing water availability, while preserving vegetation cover and microclimate. Reforestation of abandoned pastures and areas of illegal deforestation are also important pathways to mitigate environmental changes.

… increasing water benefits of plantings:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/f-spt020121.php

Efforts are now underway across the world to rectify the mistakes of the past, with the UN Strategic Plan for Forests setting out the objective for an increase in global forest coverage by 3% by 2030.

With time being of the essence, one of the most popular methods of reforestation in humid, tropical regions is the planting of a single fast-growing species (monoculture) in a large area. This is especially important as a means of quickly preventing landslides in these regions that experience frequent typhoons and heavy rains.

However, new research published to Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution by a team from Hainan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has not only found this practice could have a detrimental effect on the surrounding soil water content, but it has developed a three-step method to remedy it.

Testing showed that the transpiration rate and transpiration-related trait values were between 5 and 10 times greater in the fast-growing species than slow-growing species in the rainy and dry seasons.

It also found that soil water content surrounding the dominant slow-growing species in a nearby forest was between 1.5 and 3 times greater than fast-growing species for both the rainy and dry seasons.

"Past and current human disturbances - such as ore mining and the plantation of commercial trees - have resulted in high rates of deforestation and ecosystem degradation across the world," said Dr Wang, based at the South China Botanical Gardens in Guangzhou, China.

"These, in turn, result in a major threat to the global supply of freshwater. It is therefore urgent to initiate and maintain reforestation projects aimed at recovering soil water content and increasing freshwater supply to human society."

Rewilding:

https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/why-rewilding-success-stories-make-us-hopeful-for-the-future/

In this week’s episode of the Science Focus Podcast, we speak to Dr Andrea Perino, a scientist from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and an expert on rewilding. She tells us about the benefits of rewilding, whether it’s acres of forest or just a tiny patch in your back garden.

Valuing Nature:

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/the-times/it-is-time-to-put-a-price-on-the-environment/news-story/8a642bfd2ec4dfc45ad9f77a620f20f0

This week the UK Treasury published the Dasgupta review on the economics of biodiversity, in which Sir Partha Dasgupta, professor at the University of Cambridge, called for a new measure of inclusive wealth. Economic growth has been achieved at the expense of the natural world, he argued. …But the stock of natural capital, like rainforests and fisheries, has declined by nearly two-fifths.

We’ve depleted the world’s resources to maintain a standard of living while kidding ourselves that technological innovations have made it sustainable. We are able to kid ourselves because we look only at GDP flows. But set those against balance sheet stocks and it is clear that growth is unsustainable. To maintain our living standards we need 1.6 Earths.

… To produce an inclusive wealth measure, we need to put a price on nature. We need to value all the elephants and insects and ecosystem services provided by soil and the seas. One of those assets is biodiversity. Like a fund manager who spreads his risk, biodiversity is nature’s resilience against shocks.

Free markets fail to price nature’s assets and services. Yet governments across the world provide $US4 trillion ($5.2 trillion) of annual energy, fossil fuel, fisheries and agriculture subsidies to exploit natural resources…

A study in 1996 estimated that ecosystem services, such as food, water, waste and air purification, were worth $US33 trillion annually, nearly twice global GDP at the time. An IMF study last year concluded each forest elephant was worth $US1.75m.

https://www.sydneysun.com/news/267751808/nature-how-do-you-put-a-price-on-something-that-has-infinite-worth

Yet the idea is now mainstream, as evidenced by the high profile Economics of Biodiversity: Dasgupta Review commissioned by the UK government and lead by the economist Partha Dasgupta.

Proponents of the economic approach argue that if we don't give nature a price then we essentially treat it as having zero value. In contrast, if we articulate value in monetary terms then this can be factored into government and business decisions. Harmful costs to the natural world are no longer "externalised", to use the economic jargon, and instead the value of "natural capital" is incorporated into balance sheets.

There is certainly some merit to this approach, as shown in pilot projects where land owners are paid to improve water quality or reduce flooding.

To give an example, consider the EU-funded NatureTrade project, in which computer algorithms are used to quantify benefits from nature (such as carbon storage, pollination, recreation) derived on someone's land. Landowners are then helped to draw up a contract so they can be paid for these, in an auction the researchers behind the project describe as an "eBay for ecosystem services". This may seem a great idea, but studies have found that many landowners already protect nature simply because it's the "right" thing to do, and paying them "crowds out" these social norms.

Sometimes the language used by economists doesn't help. The Dasgupta Review provocatively states: "Nature is an asset." Yet the boundaries between our self and the natural world are more fuzzy than they may first seem, as I evidence in my book The Self Delusion. As Sigmund Freud realised in 1930, when we feel kinship with - or to use the non-scientific term "love" - something, then we don't objectify it. Instead, boundaries disappear and it merges with our sense of identity. It is antithetical to many people to refer to a dancing swift, an elegant swan or friendly-looking robin as an "asset".

Words matter, and there is also danger that such language of commodification can encourage psychological distancing. People who feel less connected to nature do less to protect it. This is why there is a growing movement involving organisations such as the RSPB (the UK's largest bird charity), to restore a sense of connection to nature, especially in children.

ABC Country Hour a National Party echo chamber:

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/abc-country-hour-mouthpiece-of-liberal-national-party-and-rural-elites/

At its 2018 federal party conference, the Liberal Party supported a motion to privatise the ABC, with the exception of its Rural Department. It was exempted on the grounds it works in the ‘national interest’.

A detailed look at the Rural Department’s flagship program and the ABC’s longest running radio program, Country Hour, shows just why the right of Australian politics is so supportive of the Rural Department.

Our detailed research has revealed that Country Hour continues to boost the views of the Liberal and National party powerful backers among the rural lobby groups and the Liberal and National parties on topics such as climate change and land-based regulations.

While it continues to normalise all manner of questionable activity and profit-taking in the rural space Country Hour will be doing the bidding of its influential supporters. This may keep it safe from being privatized but it comes at a cost to the social and natural environment as well as the credibility of the ABC.


Forest Media 5 February 2021

The Great Koala National Park received a boost with a University of Newcastle report identifying it would generate $412 million in visitor expenditure and create 9,810 full-time-equivalent jobs, with a biodiversity value (Willingness to Pay) estimated to be $530 million for the NSW population and $1.7 billion for all Australians. The industry complained the sky was falling. Fairfax media have run a great background article in Good Weekend on the plight of Koalas. Labor speaks out, while at Crescent Head locals are complaining about impacts of a road upgrade, and at Bangalow about unapproved clearing of a corridor. Meanwhile Koalas are being enlisted to save flying foxes.

With more water and without predators, kangaroos are eating other species out of house and home. Habitat modification can force animals to move further, or hinder their movements, though people have the biggest effect.

Bob Brown’s legal challenge to RFA fails, as the industry and Governments gloat, he announces he will appeal. Discussion on the future of the EPBC Act continues in the wake of the damning Samuels report, though its seems the Feds aren’t listening as a crossbencher demands accountability. The need to cut our emissions by more than 50% by 2030 is repeated, and while the Feds aren’t listening, market forces are beginning to have some effect. In Western Australia over 80 houses have burnt as fires worsen under climate heating, and yet another study warns of worse fires to come in the south-east.  

Dailan Pugh

Koala Park Great for the Economy

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/02/02/great-national-koala-park-report-released/

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured/report-australias-first-national-park-for-koalas-projected-to-generate-$1.2-billion-in-economic-output-and-9,800-jobs

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-02/great-koala-national-park-could-benefit-nsw-research-finds/13110374?fbclid=IwAR2U8gTYs80G4GjzMQM3-t-ZvyiHB2GsUrHR1uNtEK-H2alGGgNhIUr9m_g

An ambitious plan to create a 180-kilometre koala conservation reserve along the NSW Mid North Coast could generate thousands of jobs and add more than $1 billion to the state's economic output over the next 15 years, a study has found.

The Coffs Harbour and Bellingen councils, along with Destination North Coast, commissioned the University of Newcastle to undertake an economic and environmental analysis of the proposed Great Koala National Park (GKNP).

Lead researcher Roberta Ryan said it was estimated the park would generate $412 million in visitor expenditure and create 9,810 full-time-equivalent jobs.

State forest native logging would be hard hit, according to the report, and could see as many 675 jobs axed in the region.

But Timber NSW said job losses would exceed 1,500 and that the move would cost the region's economy at least $700 million a year.

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/7111136/independent-report-says-great-koala-national-park-will-generate-12-billion-regional-return/

A landmark study into a proposed national park on the Mid North Coast dedicated to protecting koalas says it will increase regional economic output by $1.2 billion over the next 15 years and create more than 9,800 full-time equivalent jobs.

Professor Roberta Ryan said the research demonstrated clearly that the Great Koala National Park would deliver a significant uplift in jobs and revenue for the Mid North Coast region.

The employment projections estimated the phasing out of approximately 675 direct and related forestry full-time equivalent jobs over a 10-year state forest native logging industry transition period.

"The research found that the loss of jobs in the medium-term in the state forest native logging industry would be more than compensated by the creation of new jobs in the management of the national park and in eco-tourism."

"The research estimates conservatively that the Great Koala National Park would boost the tourism sector by an additional 1 million visitors to the region by the end of 15 years who will spend $412 million," she said.

"The biodiversity value of the koala is estimated to be $530 million for the NSW population and $1.7 billion for all Australians."

[Ms Faehrmann ] "If there are two things the people of NSW want to see more of, it's jobs and koalas. The government has now been gifted a project that does both, and I urge them to not reject it for the sake of continuing to prop up the dying native forest logging industry.

"Koalas can't wait another two decades for governments to act. It's now or never for our koalas and this Great Koala National Park plan is a lifesaver, " said Ms Faehrmann.

The Great Koala National Park economic impact assessment and environmental benefit analysis is available at www.hrf.com.au/gknp

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/7112611/opinion-is-2021-the-year-we-finally-get-serious-about-saving-the-koala-from-extinction/

In NSW, we need urgent action to protect Koala habitat on public lands on the Mid North Coast, where approximately 20 per cent of the NSW Koala population still survive. The Great Koala National Park (GKNP) proposal would add 175,000 hectares of publicly owned native state forests to existing protected areas to establish a 315,000-hectare reserve. The GKNP proposal excludes both private and plantation forests.

So far, however, our governments have not been moved enough by the rapid reduction of Koala populations to support the proposal. However, that indifference may soon change with a landmark study by the University of Newcastle (UON) into Australia's proposed first large national park dedicated to protecting Koalas projecting the GKNP would bring an additional regional economic output of $1.2 billion over the next 15 years, deliver 9,000+ jobs for the Coffs Coast region and contribute $1.7 billion in biodiversity value.

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/subscribe/news/1/?sourceCode=DTWEB_WRE170_a_GGL&dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailytelegraph.com.au%2Fnewslocal%2Fmid-north-coast%2Fport-macquarie-koala-deaths-oneintwo-hospitalised-last-quarter-died%2Fnews-story%2Fe9257c4f5b8b2df4e92b9f09aafd8d68&memtype=anonymous&mode=premium

Daily Telegraph 5/2/2021

Between August and October 2020, close to 50 per cent of all koala admitted to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital either died in care, were dead on arrival or were required to be euthanised due to sufferance.

Admissions via motor vehicle accidents (20) accounted for the highest number of hospital treatments. …

Chlamydia (11) and other injuries or diseases (13) were the other reasons behind the admissions.

[Scot Castle] “The increasing human population creates stressors which begin with habitat loss, and lead to car strikes, dog attacks and increased occurrence of disease.”

According to a University of Newcastle research program, the Great Koala National Park could see the establishment of up to 9000 jobs, creating a significant boost to the Coffs Coast tourism economy.

https://www.miragenews.com/new-national-park-wont-help-koalas-but-will-508942/

AFPA CEO Mr Ross Hampton said previous independent economic modelling of the impact of the so-called Great Koala National Park on the NSW North Coast found it would lead to a $757 million-a-year hit to the NSW economy and cut almost 2000 jobs, devastating communities across the region where the timber industry is a major employer. This conservative estimate by respected economic modeller Ernst & Young would amount to billions of dollars and thousands more down-stream jobs over the 15 years than the report published today considered. The report was commissioned by the Greens aligned Bellingen and Coffs Harbour Councils

“The flawed report fails to recognise their plan would mean the closure of the native forestry industry on the North Coast, and with it thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity in our regions,” Mr Hampton said.

… but Koalas aren’t faring well:

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/how-good-were-koalas-a-national-treasure-in-peril-20201203-p56kac.html

But if the numbers aren’t firm, one thing is: even before the fires, koala populations had been declining precipitously. Studies carried out in 2020 by Dr Steve Phillips, principal research scientist at environmental consultancy Biolink, found that in the past two decades, Queensland had lost half its koalas, and NSW a third. Experts are still trying to tally the full extent of Black Summer’s carnage but University of Sydney research found 61,000 koalas nationally and 8000 in NSW were injured, displaced or died during the fires.

Above all else, our insatiable needs have led to the greatest threats koalas face: climate change and its handmaidens, more extreme droughts and bushfires. But despite the international spotlight the 2019-20 fires threw on the urgency of the species’ plight, one year on, governments have taken little meaningful action to protect the marsupial and its habitat.

The NSW Environment Minister, Matt Kean, says he wants to double koala numbers in the state by 2050 but in January his government announced it would fully commit to only 11 of the upper house inquiry’s 42 recommendations designed to protect koalas. Conservationists and koala scientists were horrified. “It’s really disheartening that the response to the vast majority of recommendations were ‘Support in principle’ or ‘Noted’, which to me is saying, ‘We’re doing nothing’,” Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan says. “In koala circles, everyone’s disgusted.”

Given that fact, perhaps we should ask an inverse question: if we can’t save koalas, what can we save? And if we can’t save koalas, can we save ourselves?

In November, Ley announced an $18 million koala package, which will include a national audit of populations, health research and habitat restoration. But within days, 23 conservation groups had signed an open letter slamming the audit as a diversionary tactic and a waste of money. Research scientist Steve Phillips agrees. “It’s garbage … The numbers don’t matter, it’s about the rate of change that’s occurred. We already know what that rate of change is and the science is very strong that the animal is very clearly on a trajectory towards extinction.”

The machinations continued through spring as a bill amending the Local Land Services act (LLS), which regulates native vegetation management on private land, was passed by the lower house of Parliament but blocked in the upper house when Liberal MP Catherine Cusack crossed the floor to vote with Labor, the Greens and other crossbenchers. She told the chamber that she had never seen “such poor integrity of processes” which had “zero to do with protecting koalas”. She said: “It is to try to patch up a political disagreement … Far too many mistakes have been made already, many buried in regulatory complexity. But the trends, the science and the outcomes are very clear. We are failing, and this bill cannot possibly assist.”

Multiple koala experts I spoke to for this story noted that despite layers of bureaucracy and multiple koala plans and strategies, the hard decisions needed about the most important measure to save koalas aside from reversing climate change – habitat protection – are still not being taken.

What he says next makes me shiver. “I could go out into the Pilliga at night 15 years ago and drive along the road with a spotlight and see four koalas and three brushtail possums and a couple of ringtails and possibly a carpet snake and various other things. Now I can do that and I see nothing.” A night in the Australian bush, and there is no life.

https://www.watoday.com.au/national/good-weekend-talks-how-good-were-koalas-20210204-p56zkh.html

In this episode of Good Weekend Talks, award-winning feature writer Stephanie Wood chats with Stuart Blanch, a conservation scientist with WWF-Australia, about the plight of our cuddly national icon: the koala.

… need to act with urgency:

https://www.theleader.com.au/story/7109357/opinion-we-need-action-to-save-our-koalas-now/

Our beloved Koala population is set to become extinct by 2050. As a member of Parliament, I participate in a number of committees throughout the year that conduct inquiries into issues that impact our state. Along with members from different political parties, I took part in a year-long inquiry where we were responsible for reporting on the actions, policies and funding by the State Government, which is meant to ensure healthy koala populations and habitat.

My Labor party colleagues and I, led by our Shadow Minister for Environment, Kate Washington are calling for stronger action to save our Koalas. Even a Liberal Party member of the committee, the Honourable Catherine Cusack MLC, spoke out in Parliament and crossed the floor to vote with us against deeply flawed Government legislation that would have further weakened protections for Koalas. For this honourable act in trying to protect our Koalas, Premier Berejiklian sacked Ms Cusack from her position as a Parliamentary Secretary.

There is no time to waste, the Government must take strong action now or our Koala population will be extinct in a matter of decades. If this issue continues to be ignored, part of Premier Berejiklian's legacy will be the extinction of Koalas in NSW.

… roading threat:

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/02/elders-residents-blast-kempsey-shire-council-over-tarring-in-koala-habitat/

Tarring of Point Plomer Road at Crescent Head begins on Monday, but residents and Dunghutti elders say Council has ignored their concerns about koala habitat and Aboriginal heritage sites.

Mr Palise said: ‘It doesn’t make sense why state government would give them funding for a road through pristine koala habitat.’

However, Dunghutti elder James Dungay said Council had not consulted with the Dunghutti Elders Council or the Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council before the decision was made to tar the road.

Dunghutti people have opposed tarring the road since it was first proposed in 2004.

… corridor threat:

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/02/bangalow-locals-need-help-to-protect-koala-corridor/

Sunday saw between 60 to 80 people gathered, with Bangalow Koalas, on Rifle Range Road in Bangalow to highlight the dangers of the unapproved clearing done by the owner of 99 Acres on the local koala corridor.

The owner of 99 Acres started clearing within the koala corridor, on crown land, without consent just under two weeks according to Bangalow Koalas president, Linda Sparrow.

‘A stop work was issued personally by council yesterday (Thursday, 28 January) – late [that day] work was still continuing and council were alerted. This landowner was serially non-compliant under the previous DA they had for four tourist cabins in 2017.

During the 200m that the group walked they spotted two koalas. The second one, which was ill with conjunctivitis, was in a camphor tree next to the area that had been cleared.

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/01/30/outrage-as-trees-cleared-in-bangalow-koala-habitat/

… where would they be without flying foxes:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-06/flying-foxes-help-make-forests-but-should-they-stay-in-suburbia/13121324

Some locals love them, others hate them, but flying foxes remain a vital part of the ecosystem.

"They are the night-time pollinators of the Australian hardwood forest.

"They make forests, to put it very simply, and those forests in turn are home to others species like koalas.

"If you like koalas, we need flying foxes."

But in the face of urbanisation, predation from feral animals, and climate change, Ms Nicolai said flying foxes populations were delicate, with 23,000 dying during a heatwave in 2018.

Beyond the noise, smell, and mess, debate around the potential disease risk posed by flying foxes has been constant.

Flying foxes can be infected with Australian bat lyssavirus and while it's transmissible to humans, less than 1 per cent of wild bats carry it, according to Queensland Health.

Kangaroo Threat:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/06/how-kangaroos-could-be-jeopardising-conservation-efforts-across-australia

With its natural predator in decline, roo numbers are growing – and research suggests the marsupial is doing more damage than rabbits in the country’s interior

But new research Letnic is involved in highlights a worrying trend for areas of Australia’s semi-arid interior that are being protected for conservation. Changing the landscape for livestock farming has given kangaroos an unnatural advantage, adding convenient watering holes and extra grass.

But crucially, Letnic says, the historic culling and exclusion of dingoes has seen the kangaroos’ natural predator all but disappear. “Across vast areas of the country, kangaroos have increased in number.”

The study, in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation, looked at three conservation areas in NSW and one in the central east of South Australia…

The problem is likely to be far more widespread, the study says, and grazing by kangaroos “may jeopardise conservation efforts across a large region of semi-arid Australia”.

Bush Heritage Australia has worked to decommission the old watering holes on the property to keep kangaroo numbers down. It helps, but is not enough.

Coulson says that with the dingo mostly gone, the shooters and park rangers are acting as the defacto predator for the kangaroo. “What’s missing is the dingo and Indigenous hunting. That, coupled with the provision of agricultural water, is what’s allowed the kangaroo to get up to the numbers they have.”

Moving with the times:

https://theconversation.com/humans-force-wild-animals-into-tight-spots-or-send-them-far-from-home-we-calculated-just-how-big-the-impact-is-152619?utm

Our latest research published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution has, for the first time, quantified the repercussions of logging, pollution, hunting, and other human disturbances, on the movements of a wide range of animal species.

Our findings were eye-opening. We found human disturbances, on average, restricted an animal’s movements by 37%, or increased it by 70%.

The ability to travel is essential to animal survival because it allows animals to find mates, food and shelter, escape predators and competitors, and avoid disturbances and threats.

And because animal movement is linked to many important ecological processes — such as pollination, seed dispersal and soil turnover — disruptions to movement can cascade through ecosystems.

Animals may run away from humans, or move further in search of food and nesting sites. For example, a 2020 study on koalas found their movements were longer and more directed in areas where habitats weren’t well connected, because they had to travel further to reach food patches.

Likewise, the daily movement distances of mountain brushtail possums in central Victoria were 57% higher in remnant bushland along roadsides, compared to large forest areas.

In the United States, for example, researchers played a recording of humans talking and found it caused a 34% decrease in the speed that mountain lions move.

But we found human activities caused much stronger increases in animal movement distances (averaging +35%) than habitat modifications (averaging +12%).

Bob Brown case goes down:

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7111373/bob-brown-foundations-federal-court-action-fails/?src=rss

The Bob Brown Foundation's legal challenge to test the validity of the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement and attempt to end logging in Tasmania's native forests has failed.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/03/bob-brown-loses-legal-challenge-to-native-forest-logging-in-tasmania

The case by the Bob Brown Foundation, lodged in the federal court in August and billed by the group as “the great forest case”, argued an effective exemption from environment laws granted to logging meant a regional forestry agreement between the federal and Tasmanian governments was not legally valid.

Lawyers for the foundation said the agreement lacked an enforceable requirement that the state must protect threatened species, particularly the critically endangered swift parrot.

In a judgment on Wednesday, the full federal court said the forestry agreement was legally binding.

Forestry’s exemption from the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act has been contentious since regional forestry agreements were introduced in the 1990s.

An official review of the laws by the competition watchdog, Graeme Samuel, last week called on the Morrison government to abolish the exemption as part of a major overhaul of the EPBC Act.

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/friday-analysis-gotcha-bob-brown-foundation-you-failed/

It was a “Gotcha” moment for Bob Brown. Despite throwing almost everything it could, his Bob Brown Foundation failed in its Federal Court bid to shut down the native timber industry in Tasmania. Source: Bruce Mitchell

The court in its wisdom ruled that Tasmania’s Regional Forest Agreement did not contradict federal laws and was therefore valid.

Gotcha.

The court also agreed that Tasmania’s RFA as well as a broader suite of protective measures (such as STT’s Swift Parrot Public Authority Management Agreement) existed in Tasmania to protect endangered species.

Gotcha again.

Tasmania’s Resources Minister Guy Barnett described the day as historic.

“We won. The forest industry has won. The workers of Tasmania have won. The Bob Brown Foundation has lost,” he said.

And here’s where the Forest & Wood Communities Australia may have just one more card to play in the “gotcha” moment.

FWCA has formally requested prosecutions of the Bob Brown Foundation by the work safety regulator WorkSafe Tasmania.

The requests, made under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (Tas), are for the reckless and dangerous actions engaged in by the foundation during workplace invasions in Tasmanian timber harvesting coupes in 2020.

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/bob-brown-foundations-great-forest-case-fails-3-0/

In its judgement, the Federal Court found that the Tasmania’s RFA is valid, rejecting the two legal arguments put forward by the Bob Brown Foundation.

In dismissing the foundation’s case, the Federal Court judges said that even though some of the provisions in the RFA were not legally binding, that did not mean the agreement itself wasn’t “in force”, and agreed with Mr Shaun McElwaine SC, acting for SST, who argued that “there is a broader suite of protective measures in force in Tasmania”.

The Federal Court’s judgement means that the BFF’s injunction to halt logging in 19 coupes in Tasmania also ended on Wednesday.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/bob-brown-fights-native-forest-case-163100200--spt.html

The Bob Brown Foundation is taking its legal battle to stop native forest logging in Tasmania to the High Court.

Tasmania's Liberal government, Labor opposition, peak forestry body and state-owned forestry company Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) all support the Federal Court's ruling.

Dr Brown has twice been arrested in recent months at separate protests at logging coupes in the island state's northeast.

The fix is in on the EPBC Act, but will they fix it?

https://theconversation.com/to-fix-australias-environment-laws-wildlife-experts-call-for-these-4-changes-all-are-crucial-154273?utm

Samuel’s report concluded Australia’s biodiversity is in decline and the law (the EPBC Act) “is not fit for current or future environmental challenges”.

The findings are no surprise to us. As ecologists, we’ve seen first hand how Australia’s nature laws and governance failure have permitted environmental degradation and destruction to the point that species face extinction. Even then, continued damage is routinely permitted.

And the findings aren’t news to many other Australians, who have watched wildlife and iconic places such as Kakadu and Kosciuszko national parks, and the Great Barrier Reef, decline at rates that have only accelerated since the act was introduced in 1999. Even globally recognisable wildlife, such as the platypus, now face a future that’s far from certain.

Biodiversity offsets, which aim to compensate for environmental damage by improving nature elsewhere, have for the most part been dreadfully ineffective. Instead they have been a tool to facilitate biodiversity loss.

Vital features of the standards Samuel recommends include:

  • avoiding impacts on the critical habitat of threatened species
  • avoiding impacts that could reduce the abundance of threatened species with already small and declining populations
  • no net reduction in the population size of critically endangered and endangered species
  • cumulative impacts must be explicitly considered for threatened species and communities
  • offsets can only be used as a last resort, not as a routine part of business like they are at the moment.

Samuel’s report states the minister can make decisions that aren’t consistent with the National Environmental Standards — but only as a “rare exception”. He says these exceptions must be “demonstrably justified in the public interest”, and this justification must be published.

Samuel urges improved resourcing because to date, funding to protect species and the environment has been grossly inadequate.

Engaging experts is key to achieving Samuel’s long-overdue proposed reforms. He calls for the immediate creation of expert committees on sustainable development, Indigenous participation, conservation science, heritage, and water resources. This will help support the best available data collection to underpin important decisions.

For example, while we know logging and fires threaten greater gliders, there’s still no recovery plan for this iconic forest possum. And recent research suggests there are actually three — not simply one — species of greater glider. Suspected interactions between climate change, fire and logging, and unexplained severe population declines, means significant new effort must be invested to set out a clear plan for their recovery.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/31/rex-patrick-says-he-wont-support-coalition-plan-on-environmental-powers-before-it-responds-to-scathing-review

A key independent senator says he will not support a government plan to shift environmental approval powers to the states before the Coalition responds to a “scathing” review of conservation laws.

A majority of senators signalled they would block the bill last year and Patrick was among a crossbench group that tabled a dissenting report to an inquiry examining the legislation.

Patrick said on Friday that the government still had not addressed key concerns outlined in that dissenting report, which called for documents detailing the agreements between the states and the commonwealth as well as how state authorities would be accredited with the commonwealth to make decisions on its behalf.

Australia needs to cut emissions by 50% by 2030:

https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786?utm

An expert report released last week warned Australia must cut emissions by 50% or more in the next decade if it’s to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Meeting this challenge will require everyone to do their bit.

In fact, a report last year found Australia’s big four banks loaned A$7 billion to 33 fossil fuel projects in the three years to 2019.

Globally too, investors are starting to wake up to the cost of nature loss. Last month, investors representing US$2.4 trillion (A$3.14 trillion) in assets asked HSBC to set emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement.

Climate change is not the only threat to global financial security. Nature loss – the destruction of plants, animals and ecosystems – poses another existential threat. Last year, the World Economic Forum reported more than half of the global economy relies on goods and services nature provides such as pollination, water and disease control.

It is nonsensical that various Australian governments send competing signals about whether, say, forests should be cleared or restored. And at the federal level, biodiversity loss and climate change come under separate portfolios, despite the issues being inextricably linked.

Last week, a major report was released highlighting grave failures in Australia’s environmental laws. The government’s response suggested it is not taking the threat seriously.

West Australia goes up:

https://theconversation.com/as-perths-suburbs-burn-the-rest-of-australia-watches-and-learns-154544?utm

February has already been a bad month for Perth. Bushfire has destroyed 81 homes and burned more than 10,000 hectares northeast of the city. Residents in the midst of a COVID-19 lockdown were told to abandon their homes and seek shelter as the bushfire raged.

The disaster calls to mind the unprecedented Black Summer fires that devastated eastern Australia last summer. But the tragedies are very different beasts.

Weather played a major role. The fire started during one of Perth’s typical summer easterly wind events, involving strong gusts, high temperatures and low relative humidity.

And as southwestern Australia continues to warm and dry under a changing climate, the period of bushfire risk is now getting longer. That means bushfires in spring and autumn will become more common.

And the shifting climate will bring make bushfires worse both in the west and across Australia. Bushfires may escape more quickly, burn more intensely, resist control and occur over a greater part of the year. Plants will have drier foliage, further increasing bushfire intensity.

Another warning – Bushfires getting worse:

https://aboutregional.com.au/bushfires-a-wake-up-call-for-the-future-say-anu-scientists/

A new study from a group of ANU scientists has painted a clear picture of future bushfire events, with a stark warning that more Black Summers are on the way because of climate change.

“Our new work highlights the strong evidence that south-east Australia’s climate has shifted, and that this type of fire weather is becoming more frequent, prolonged and severe.”

“When we look to the future, we see south-east Australia continuing to become even hotter because of human-caused climate change. On top of that, climate change is altering our patterns of year-to-year climate variability so that we expect extremely hot and dry years to occur more often.”

Professor Abram said while the current La Niña weather pattern of a wet winter followed by increased rainfall during summer is an indication that not every summer will be like 2019/20, their study showed a clear risk of more severe bushfires if the human-made effects of climate change are not addressed.

The Bureau of Meteorology has also warned that the La Niña weather pattern is already beginning to weaken.

This new work follows an open letter, released during the height of Australia’s Black Summer fire crisis and signed by more than 400 climate and fire experts from across the world, warning of the ways climate change is increasing bushfire risk in Australia.

Professor Abram said climate change indicators point towards a rapidly increasing risk of catastrophic bushfires beyond anything we have experienced in the past.

The research has been published in Communications Earth & Environment.

Mapping forest structure:

https://phys.org/news/2021-02-forests-world-d-team-analyses.html

Primeval forests are of great importance for biodiversity and global carbon and water cycling. The three-dimensional structure of forests plays an important role here because it influences processes of gas and energy exchange with the atmosphere, whilst also providing habitats for numerous species. An international research team led by the University of Göttingen has investigated the variety of different complex structures that can be found in the world's forests, as well as the factors that explain this diversity. The results have been published in Nature Communications.

They found that the global variability of forest structures can be explained to a large extent by the amount of precipitation and thus by the availability of water in the different ecosystems. Based on these findings and with the help of climate data, they were able to create maps of the world's forests showing the global variability of structural complexity.


Forest Media 29 January 2021

NSW’s Renewable Energy Plan lets in a trojan horse as one of the worlds 10 largest biomass plants, with the release of over 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 set to be fast-tracked. The European Union wakes up to the truth that forest biomass produces more greenhouse gas emissions than coal, oil and gas, and its not going away anytime soon.

Government invests in Koala surveys in Port Macquarie and Kempsey, with Kean repeating "If you want to protect koalas, you need to protect their habitat,". Peta join the fight, focusing on clearing of Koala habitat for livestock. Biobanking comes under attack as Lendlease begin clearing Koala habitat for its 1700-home Figtree Hill estate at Gilead. The Koala geome has been remapped making genetic work easier. Lismore’s Lorraine Vass awarded an OAM for Koala advocacy, and Tweed’s Jenny Hayes made Citizen of the year for her efforts.

Wild bees disappearing. The Black Summer bushfires are estimated to have killed 180 million birds, compared to domestic cats killing 61 million, and feral cats 300+ million, each year. While in 2020 Scomo refused to sign a global pledge endorsed by 64 countries committing them to reverse biodiversity loss, and in 2021 refused to join 50 countries committing to protecting 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030, at least there is a Federal inquiry into cats. The Guardian have done an environmental roundup. After sitting on it for 3 months, the Federal Government released Samuel’s damning review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act. It identifies that Australia's natural environment and iconic places are in deep trouble and the laws inadequate, with the provisions for RFAs the most unacceptable and in need of immediate reform, including conformity with National Environmental Standards.

The Federal ALP are in a shambles, loggers welcome Tasmanian Julie Collins as a replacement for Fitzgibbon as shadow Forestry spokesperson, and Fitzgibbon’s insistence that Butler be dropped from climate and energy lead to him being replaced with Bowen and a greater emphasis on jobs. The Climate Council found that climate-driven extreme weather disasters have cost New South Wales $9 billion in the past decade, with increased burning or Gondwana rainforests and ‘flash droughts’ highlighted. Its not all bad, aside from wiping out flying foxes, possums and a host of others, heatwaves can also devastate insect pests and mistletoes. And trees can bounce back from drought, some trees can go into overdrive, though it’s the older trees that are worst affected.

A new interactive map of carbon sources and sinks worldwide is now publicly available on Global Forest Watch , it can be assessed from the global down to the local government level. Between 2001 and 2019, forests emitted an average of 8.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from deforestation and took up 16 billion tonnes. The conclusion: protecting primary and mature secondary forests today is most important for curbing climate change. Forest carbon trading is growing. Britain is wrestling with natural carbon solutions, while they intend planting trees, some say it would be better to encourage natural regeneration, and others remind them to account for the deforestation being undertaken to grow the soyabeans they use for stockfeed. America’s adaptions include planting genetically modified trees and species outside their natural ranges. Meanwhile Scomo is putting his fossil fools in charge of Australian emission reductions.

Another study says that over the next 40 years the risks of extreme wildfire will double in many countries, though the good news is that it only increases by 50% in Australia. In America there is a realisation that climate heating is driving increased burning, though there is similar debate to here on what to do about it.

Dailan Pugh

NSW’s Renewable Energy Plan fatally flawed:

Byron Shire Echo (print) 27 January 2021

https://issuu.com/explore?embed_cta=logo&embed_context=embed&embed_domain=www.echo.net.au

North coast conservationists have described NSW’s renewable energy plan as an ‘environmental tragedy’ owing to its intent to replace coal burning with native forests to fuel biomass power stations.

North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) say the NSW government is attempting to expand the burning of native forest under the pretence that it is renewable energy, which is ‘more polluting than coal’.

NCEC vice-president, Susie Russell, says, ‘Burning native forests for electricity will increase CO2 emissions and contribute to the rapidly worsening climate and biodiversity emergencies and take money from genuine renewable projects’.

… Mr. Pugh. ‘This Government has changed the rules to allow the burning of native forests for electricity, changed the rules to increase land clearing, and recently changed the logging rules for State Forests and private forests to halve the number of trees that need to be retained, while zoning 140,000 hectares of public coastal forests from Grafton to Taree for clearfelling’. 

Northern Rivers Times (print p14)

https://issuu.com/heartlandmagazineaus/docs/heartlandnrt210125p0

North coast conservationists have described NSW’s renewable energy plan as fatally flawed and an environmental tragedy due to its intent to fast track the replacement of coal with local native forests as fuel for power stations under the pretence it is renewable energy.

“This means it is likely to receive Government funding as well as Renewable Energy Credits, and that the Government will “cut red tape” to speed up its approval” Mr. Pugh said.

“This needs to be seen in the context of the attempt by the Government last year to remove protections and allow koala habitat to be logged and cleared and to give 30 year logging permits. Temporarily thwarted by Liberal MP Catherine Cusack crossing the floor to vote against her government” Ms Russell said.

“The community needs to urgently speak up to stop the NSW Government from allowing this environmental disaster” Mr. Pugh said.

Biomass bad:

https://www.eubusiness.com/Members/WWF/forest-biomass/

A European Commission report concludes that most forest biomass produces more greenhouse gas emissions than coal, oil and gas.

Indeed the report, published yesterday, finds that most of the forest biomass currently being burnt for energy in the EU not only increases emissions compared to fossil fuels, but does so for decades - which would imperil the EU's net zero target for 2050 and chances of stopping runaway climate change.

The report also finds that: 

  • Only one of the 24 scenarios for forest biomass use that Commission scientists looked at - the limited use of 'fine' harvest residues - was judged likely to provide short term emissions reductions compared to fossil fuels without compromising biodiversity. And even in that case 'short term' means emissions would be higher than fossil fuels for as long as twenty years.
  • What matters from a climate perspective is what is being burned, not how sustainably it was produced nor what's happening to forest carbon stocks overall. But this issue - any restriction on feedstocks - is precisely what is lacking from the Renewable Energy Directive currently. Nearly 800 scientists made exactly this point to EU legislators in 2018.

https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/use-woody-biomass-energy-production-eu

Koala Karaoke:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-23/koala-karaoke-planned-for-mid-north-coast/13081612

The program would distribute audio devices to citizen scientists to record the bellows of male koalas in breeding season.

Rebecca Montague-Drake, from the Hastings-Macleay Koala Recovery Partnership, said she was working on the project with a colleague in the state's Southern Highlands.

"We're calling our program Koala Karaoke and the intent is, once we've done this initial legwork, it can be rolled out as a citizen science program where particularly interested people can be part of this and track koala populations over time," Dr Montague-Drake said.

Dr Montague-Drake said the group surveyed 264 sites across the two local government areas in the spring and summer of 2020.

"Some of the key results that we've seen so far found that 55 per cent of our sites were actually occupied by koalas," she said.

https://www.macleayargus.com.au/story/7095763/study-to-better-understand-koala-population-receives-more-funding/

Koala research in the Hastings and Macleay will benefit from a $100,000 state government injection.

The funding will go towards the Koala Recovery Partnership's science-based survey of koala occupancy across the Port Macquarie and Kempsey area of regional koala significance.

The research includes tracking koala movements using specially trained dogs to sniff out scats on the ground as well as the use of acoustic monitoring devices to tap into koala calls.

Mr Kean said if we could better understand the movements and habitat of our koalas, we were better placed to protect them.

"If you want to protect koalas, you need to protect their habitat," he said.

"That's why we in NSW are determined to protect our habitat by increasing our national parks estate."

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/01/21/detection-dogs-help-track-koalas-near-port-macquarie/

… eating them out of house and home:

https://www.peta.org.au/news/koalas-australia-day-protest/

Ahead of the country’s national day, protesters dressed as one of Australia’s most iconic animals – the koala – rallied outside New South Wales’ premier’s office with signs that read, “It’s Me or Meat” and “Eating Meat Kills Koalas.”

The message comes after months of debate in the NSW parliament about land clearing laws and a recently released report that identified Australia as one of the world’s worst deforestation hotspots – largely because of the creation of pastureland for cattle and sheep.

… paying blood money:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-25/do-offsets-and-biobanking-protect-diversity/13085628

Biodiversity offsets have become a widely-accepted way to attempt to compensate for the destruction of endangered habitat and species in mining and other large scale development projects, but do they work?

Before a project gains approval under the NSW planning system, the extent of environmental damage – for instance, through vegetation clearing or damage to upland swamps by mine subsidence – is negotiated upfront.

Typically the proponent negotiates damage to a section of land by offsetting it with enhancements to another, usually larger parcels of similar land located nearby.

The process, known as biobanking, is regulated by both state and Federal governments.

This is happening at Gilead, on the south-west outskirts of Sydney, which is home to a vibrant chlamydia-free colony of koalas.

As part of the approval, Lendlease biobanked 21 hectares of koala habitat in the registered Appin West Offset area and land in the adjacent Noorumba Reserve Biobank site.

"The credits retired from these biobank sites will permanently protect and manage 64.65 hectares of koala habitat" at a cost of $857,800 over five years, the company's Mount Gilead Koala Plan of Management said.

Saul Deane from the Total Environmental Centre … said nominated biobanked areas were too far away, not correctly zoned, include areas already set aside for koala protection, and perhaps most concerning of all "aren't connected to existing wildlife corridors".

Another site using offsets and biobanking to achieve biodiversity conservation outcomes is the Dendrobium Coal Mine Extension Project in the Illawarra.

The Dendrobium mine extension is expected to result in damage to 25 upland swamps feeding the Special Areas of Sydney's drinking water catchment and result in the direct clearing of up to 28.5 hectares of native vegetation where threatened koalas, eastern pygmy-possums and Rosenberg's goannas live.

The 2016 South32 Illawarra Coal Strategic Biodiversity Offset plan says the company will transfer 598 hectares of a biobanking site at Maddens Plains into government ownership to compensate for biodiversity losses.

NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann … "I think people would be extremely alarmed to know that we have a system that allows developers or other proponents of big projects to simply pay money to be allowed to clear threatened species habitat," she said.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/lendlease-housing-development-threat-koalas

A funeral procession for koalas was organised on January 27 by Extinction Rebellion and other supporters of the endangered native.

The protesters are campaigning for developer giant Lendlease, the New South Wales government and Campbelltown City Council to pull back from plans to bulldoze one of the country’s healthiest koala populations for a housing estate.

Lendlease has begun clearing trees at Gilead, in the Macarthur region, after the council approved work on the first stage of its 1700-home Figtree Hill estate in December.

… mapping their geome:

https://theconversation.com/a-new-3d-koala-genome-will-aid-efforts-to-defend-the-threatened-species-153873?utm

Today, many koala populations across Australia are in decline, due to habitat destruction caused by agriculture, urbanisation, droughts and bushfires intensified by climate change, and diseases such as chlamydia and koala retrovirus.

We have created a new “chromosome-length” sequence of the koala genome, which will allow researchers to study its three-dimensional structure and understand its evolution.

The modern koala is the only living representative of the marsupial family Phascolarctidae, a family that once included several genera and species. During the Oligocene and Miocene epochs (from 34 to 5 million years ago), the ancestors of modern koalas lived in rainforests and didn’t eat only leaves.

https://phys.org/news/2021-01-climbing-koala-family-tree.html

The koala is the latest species to have its DNA digitized and uploaded to the cloud.

"They are one of the things which make Australia Australia. They're very, very important from a tourism economy point of view—but they're actually listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List," says Parwinder Kaur, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Science at UWA and Director of DNA Zoo Australia.

The koala is so unique, says Parwinder, that its closest living relative is the wombat.

If that one food source is threatened, either by deforestation or by bushfire, the koala has nowhere else to go. Even where pockets of suitable trees are left, they may not be able to support a large enough population of koalas to maintain genetic diversity.

… OAMs and citizens of the year:

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/nsw/northern-rivers-koala-conservationist-receives-australia-day-honour-20210125-p56wpm.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_feed

A conservationist who has spent decades fighting to protect koalas in the NSW Northern Rivers has been made a member of the Order of Australia.

Lorraine Vass, who was president of community group Friends of the Koala for 15 years, was acknowledged in this year’s Australia Day honours for significant service to wildlife conservation.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/01/koala-advocate-is-tweed-citizen-of-the-year/

Murwillumbah local Jenny Hayes was named the 2020 Tweed Shire Citizen of the Year at Tuesday’s Australia Day Awards and Citizenship ceremony.

The award recognises Ms Hayes’s community work over many years, particularly her dedication to the protection of the Tweed’s endangered koala population, culminating in the founding of Team Koala in 2009.

Wild bees declining:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/22/quarter-of-known-bee-species-have-not-been-recorded-since-1990

The number of wild bee species recorded by an international database of life on Earth has declined by a quarter since 1990, according to a global analysis of bee declines.

They found a steep decline in bee species being recorded since 1990, with approximately 25% fewer species reported between 2006 and 2015 than before the 1990s.

Although this does not mean these species are extinct, it may indicate that some have become so scarce that they are no longer regularly observed in the wild.

Cats more devastating than bushfires, and they do it all the time:

https://johnmenadue.com/the-continuing-loss-of-plant-animal-and-reptile-species-has-dire-consequences-but-governments-shows-precious-little-understanding/

While cats provide much-needed companionship, they are also genetically programmed killers. Cats have devastating effects on biodiversity, which is vital for food security. .. Estimates are that domestic cats kill 61 million birds a year and those becoming feral kill more than 300 million birds plus countless small mammals and reptiles. By contrast the recent Australian bushfires killed 180 million birds.

The same life support systems are provided to humanity by a stable climate, clean air, adequate water and the biodiversity of productive land. All are increasingly harmed by our failure to act on solid scientific evidence that we are harming them irrevocably.

A report card for each of these environmental life support systems would focus most attention on biodiversity because its importance is poorly understood and little is being done to maintain it. On most measureable environmental criteria, Australia’s environment is fast deteriorating.

By contrast, there is insufficient public or government understanding of the dire consequences of the continuing loss of plant, animal and reptile species from the direct damaging actions of industry, governments, and individuals.

Despite this, in 2020 the Morrison government refused to sign a global pledge endorsed by 64 countries committing them to reverse biodiversity loss because it was inconsistent with Australia’s policies presumably on resource development. And this year Australia was not one of 50 countries committed to protecting 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030.

Therefore, it was perhaps surprising that last year the Minister announced a Parliamentary Inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia. It will report later this year. The task of stopping the devastating effect of cats on biodiversity seems insurmountable but the inquiry may serve the purpose of showing government interest in the topic.

Reform will require skills not yet displayed by most governments for we might envisage thousands of incensed and devoted cat owners protesting by storming our “Capitol” hill in Canberra. In terms of attitudes and regulation little has changed since 1994.

The skills required are the sympathetic recognition of the companionship that cats provide many people particularly the lonely, while educating that every cat is a genetically programmed killer outside its home.

The Guardian’s environmental roundup:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/25/net-zero-saving-koalas-and-forest-wars-the-crucial-environment-battles-looming-in-australia

The focus ahead of the November climate conference in Glasgow will increasingly be on what Australia – with no meaningful policies to reduce emissions from transport or major industry and which is still promising a “gas-led recovery” and approving new coal projects – will do before 2030 to live up to the commitment it made in Paris five years ago.

An interim report in July found Australia’s environment was in an unsustainable state of decline, and that the national conservation laws – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – were ineffective and needed substantial change.

Meanwhile, the auditor general’s office found the government and federal environment department were failing in their duty to protect nature.

Funding for environment programs was cut by more than a third after the Coalition was elected in 2013. Some was restored last year, much of it directed to “congestion busting” – increasing the pace at which industry and business development proposals were assessed.

It is still yet to release Samuel’s final report, which it has been sitting on since October.

Australia’s most globally recognisable natural landmark suffered through its third major coral bleaching event since 2016 last year. Most of the damage was near the southern end around Mackay – an area that was mostly left untouched in 2016 and 2017. It means reefs along the full length of the 2,300km wonder have been severely affected over the past five years.

The Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay, both world heritage listed areas, are threatened by warming ocean temperatures that could affect ecosystems and fisheries that have not recovered since a marine heatwave in 2011.

The capriciousness of New South Wales politics was on full display last year when the deputy premier, John Barilaro, threatened, but failed to resign ostensibly over a policy designed to protect koalas, just months after the iconic species was devastated by the summer bushfires.

It is a similar story at state level. The NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, has set a target to double the state’s koala population by 2050, but forestry operations and mining proposals in koala and other threatened species’ habitat continue, and the state government has continued to weaken land-clearing laws.

Court decisions loom large over native forest logging in two Australian states this year, and an industry that spent much of last year under siege.

Major retailers are increasingly refusing to sell paper logged by agencies without forest stewardship council, or FSC, certification - and both the Tasmanian and the Victorian agencies have failed to get it.

It means the court decisions could have significant ramifications for plans to continue native forest logging at current levels until 2030, in Victoria’s case, or indefinitely in Tasmania. And they could have major ramifications for threatened species protection.

Australia’s failed federal environment laws:

https://menafn.com/1101512107/A-major-report-excoriated-Australias-environment-laws-Sussan-Leys-response-is-confused-and-risky&source=19

It's official: Australia's natural environment and iconic places are in deep trouble. They can't withstand current and future threats, including climate change. And the national laws protecting them are flawed and badly outdated.

You could hardly imagine a worse report on the state of Australia's environment, and the law's capacity to protect it, than that released yesterday . The review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act, by former competition watchdog chair Professor Graeme Samuel, did not mince words. Without urgent changes, most of Australia's threatened plants, animals and ecosystems will become extinct.

Federal environment minister Sussan Ley released the report yesterday after sitting on it for three months. And she showed little sign of being spurred into action by Samuel's scathing assessment.

… applying the new standards to existing Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs). Such a move could open up the forest debate in a way not seen since the 1990s

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jan/28/australia-urged-to-overhaul-environment-laws-and-reverse-decline-of-our-iconic-places?fbclid=IwAR3HtbhWQNabYldpmqo_HJ8sFwHB8v_mZHzq1QObwVWtH9y2guaroYXRtko

The Morrison government must overhaul Australia’s environmental laws, including establishing new independent bodies to take on responsibility for monitoring the environment and enforcing compliance with the law, a once-in-a-decade independent review has found.

The final report from the review of the laws finds the environment is suffering from two decades of failure by governments to improve protection systems meant to ensure the survival of the country’s unique wildlife.

In a major shift, Samuel also called on the government to abolish the effective exemption from environment laws granted to all native forest logging covered by regional forestry agreements between the federal and state governments.

Samuel said the government would be accepting “the continued decline of our iconic places and the extinction of our most threatened plants, animals and ecosystems” if it shied away from the fundamental reforms recommended by the review.

https://epbcactreview.environment.gov.au/resources/final-report/recommendations

Recommendation 15

Increase the level of environmental protection afforded in Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs).

  1. The Commonwealth should immediately require, as a condition of any accredited arrangement, States to ensure that RFAs are consistent with the National Environmental Standards.
  2. In the second tranche of reform, the EPBC Act should be amended to replace the RFA 'exemption' with a requirement for accreditation against the National Environmental Standards, with the mandatory oversight of the Environment Assurance Commissioner.

https://epbcactreview.environment.gov.au/resources/final-report/chapter-6-commonwealth-decisions-and-interactions-other-commonwealth-laws/61-existing-accreditation-arrangements-other-commonwealth-agencies

The EPBC Act does not specify the environmental benchmarks against which the RFA must be consistent for the exemption to apply.

The Review considers that the environmental considerations under the RFA Act are weaker than those imposed elsewhere for MNES and do not align with the assessment of significant impacts on MNES required by the EPBC Act. Submissions from stakeholders indicated concern around the effectiveness of the RFAs to protect threatened species that rely on the forest areas covered by RFAs. There is also great concern that the controls on logging within forests have not adequately adapted to pressures on the ecosystem such as climate change or bushfire impacts (WS 2020).

There is insufficient Commonwealth oversight of RFAs and the assurance and reporting mechanisms are weak…

… The EPBC Act does not require reporting on the environmental outcomes of activities conducted under RFAs. The Review considers that Commonwealth oversight of environmental protections under RFAs is insufficient and immediate reform is needed. The National Environmental Standard for MNES should be immediately applied and RFAs should be subject to robust Commonwealth oversight.

Of all streamlining processes provided for under the EPBC Act, the Review considers that the provisions for RFAs are the most unacceptable and require immediate reform. Specifically, RFAs should be required to demonstrate consistency with the National Environmental Standards and have greater Commonwealth oversight.

In the immediate term, and as a condition of accreditation (Chapter 7), States and Territories should ensure, and the Commonwealth expect, RFAs be consistent with National Environmental Standards.

Following this immediate step, the RFA provisions in the EPBC Act should be amended as part of the second tranche of comprehensive legislative reforms recommended by this Review. These amendments should replace the current exemption with the ability for the RFA process to be accredited where it can be demonstrated to be consistent with the National Environmental Standards.

Federal ALP promises more of the same:

https://ausfpa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Media-Release-AFPA-congratulates-Julie-Collins-on-appointment-as-Shadow-Agriculture-Minister.pdf

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) congratulates Member for Franklin Julie Collins MP on her appointment today as Shadow Agriculture Minister, which includes the forestry portfolio.

“As a Tasmanian MP representing an electorate where forestry is a major industry, I have no doubt Ms Collins understands its importance,” Mr Violante said.

“AFPA has a positive working relationship with the Federal Labor Party and its MPs and Senators, and I have no doubt this will continue with Ms Collins in this important role.”

https://theconversation.com/grattan-on-friday-albaneses-reshuffle-sharpens-focus-on-jobs-but-talk-about-his-own-job-will-continue-154198?utm

For the most part, it’s not the shadow ministers who’ve been coming under fire – leaving aside Joel Fitzgibbon’s attacks on climate spokesman Mark Butler.

The most significant and controversial of the changes is moving Butler out of climate and energy, replacing him with Chris Bowen.

Albanese previously insisted he wouldn’t shift Butler. He casts the Bowen move in terms of greater emphasis on jobs.

But some may reckon Labor has become spooked on climate policy just when it’s in tune with the times, as the Biden administration, labelling climate change an “existential crisis”, advances very robust policies.

Fitzgibbon has achieved the shift of Butler but he will go on stirring. Asked about Butler, he said: “A change of jockey alone will not be enough. We really do need to change the policy trajectory and to recalibrate.”

Paying for climate inaction:

https://www.miragenews.com/new-report-nsw-takes-massive-financial-hit-from-climate-change/

A NEW REPORT from the Climate Council has found that climate-driven extreme weather disasters have cost New South Wales $9 billion in the past decade, and it is only going to get worse.

The Hitting Home: The Compounding Costs of Climate Inaction report says all the types of extreme weather events that affected NSW in 2020—bushfires, heatwaves, drought, storms, coastal erosion, and flooding—will worsen due to climate change.

  • Climate change is increasing fire danger across NSW, including in ancient Gondwana rainforests, which were previously considered too wet to burn, but were razed during Black Summer.
  • ‘Flash droughts’ are a newly recognised phenomenon affecting NSW—a sudden onset and rapid intensification of drought conditions over a period of weeks or months.

… benefiting from heatwaves:

https://theconversation.com/an-unexpected-consequence-of-climate-change-heatwaves-kill-plant-pests-and-save-our-favourite-giant-trees-148919?utm

In the complex world of plant ecology, however, heatwaves aren’t always a bad thing. Rolling days of scorching temperatures can kill off plant pests, such as elm beetles and mistletoe, and even keep their numbers down for years.

In the days following Black Saturday, botanists, horticulturists and arborists noticed a curious heatwave side-effect: the foliage of native Australian mistletoes (Amyema miquelii and A. pendula species) growing on river red gums lost their green colour and turned grey.

During the Black Saturday heatwave, many mistletoes growing on river red gums died. The gums not only survived, but when record rains came in 2010, they thrived. A decade on, the mistletoe numbers are gradually increasing, but they’re still not high enough to threaten the survival of older, significant red gums.

Moreton Bay figs are prone to insect infestations of the psyllid, Mycopsylla fici, which can seriously defoliate trees under certain conditions.

In Melbourne, psyllid numbers that were high before Black Saturday fell to undetectable levels in the following month.

… the drought bounce:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/forests-climate-change-droughts-trees-dendroarchaeology-plant-growth/

Droughts can stunt forest growth, kill trees and even change how forests function, or what species they’re made up of.

What we found suggests that some trees could rebound from difficult periods with more vitality than we might have imagined, which could be good news for forests facing a drier future.

Scots pine … We found that even trees of the same age and species growing in the same place took very different lengths of time to recover from drought. On average, the rate of tree growth took four years to recover to levels that might have been expected if no drought had occurred, with most trees taking between one and six years – though some trees still hadn’t recovered this growth rate nine years later.

Fast growing trees bounced back quicker, but larger trees took a longer time to achieve growth rates that would have been expected if no drought had happened. …the growth of some trees went into overdrive, and these trees actually started growing faster than in our modelled scenario where no drought had occurred. … Compensatory growth happens elsewhere in nature – it’s been recorded in species of fish, grasses and moths.

Forests still sequestering more carbon, but we have to stop clearing and logging releasing it:

https://www.miragenews.com/worldwide-forest-carbon-sources-and-sinks-mapped-in-unprecedented-detail/

A new interactive map of carbon sources and sinks from forests around the world confirm that forests take up twice as much carbon as they release. In a new study published in Nature Climate Change Wageningen researchers cooperated with an international team to combine numerous databases with forests measurements on land and from satellite observations. The resulting new zoomable world map reveals forest carbon changes in the last two decades ranging from forest stand scale, the level of communities, provinces, countries to an entire continent.

The forest carbon flux map, now publicly available on Global Forest Watch, shows that between 2001 and 2019, forests emitted an average of 8.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from deforestation and other disturbances, while (re)growing forests took up 16 billion tonnes. These substantial amounts of global carbon indicate that forests are net carbon deposits. Forests absorb twice as much carbon as they emit each year, says Prof. Martin Herold of Wageningen University & Research. “But it also means that we cannot miss those sinks in global climate control”. He is referring to the fact that in 2019 alone, the world lost 11.9 million hectares of tree cover: “Healthy forests, soils and oceans help keeping carbon sinks in function. We cannot afford to lose the CO2 absorption capacity of forests”, he adds.

The downloadable underlying data can be used by everyone: regional and national governments, the EU, or environmental NGOs and social organisations. For instance to give a complete picture in the condition and changes of forests in an area.

https://www.globalforestwatch.org/map/country/AUS/5/?mainMap=eyJzaG93QW5hbHlzaXMiOnRydWV9&map=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%3D&utm_campaign=news&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_source=miragenews

[For NSW the data show (note that a lot of this is 2019 fires), this is also available at the local Government level]

From 2001 to 2019, New South Wales lost 1.66Mha of tree cover, equivalent to a 13% decrease in tree cover since 2000, and 441Mt of CO₂ emissions.

In New South Wales, the top 11 regions were responsible for 53% of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2019. Clarence Valley had the most tree cover loss at 167kha compared to an average of 10.9kha.

In 2010, New South Wales had 11.8Mha of natural forest, extending over 15% of its land area. In 2019, it lost 910kha of natural forest, equivalent to 247Mt of CO₂ of emissions.

From 2013 to 2019, 94% of tree cover loss in New South Wales occurred within natural forest. The total loss within natural forest was equivalent to 324Mt of CO2 emissions.

https://www.straitstimes.com/world/forests-still-major-carbon-store-for-now-but-threats-growing-study

The world's forests are still soaking up billions of tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) every year, a global study has found, despite millions of hectares being burned and cleared for agriculture.

The findings show that forests remain a key brake on the pace of climate change by locking away large amounts of CO2 from industry, power stations and cars even after decades of destruction.

But the analysis shows that some forests, especially in South-east Asia and the Amazon, are in trouble, becoming major sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Over the past 20 years, forests across South-east Asia have collectively become a net source of carbon emissions due to clearing for plantations, uncontrolled fires and drainage of peat soils," co-authors Nancy Harris and David Gibbs of WRI said in a blog post.

According to the study, the Amazon now locks away a net 100 million tonnes of CO2, or roughly twice Singapore's annual CO2 emissions, but is also a huge source of emissions. Of the world's three largest tropical rainforests, only the Congo Basin in Africa remains a strong net carbon sink, sequestering 600 million tonnes more CO2 a year than it emits.

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/amazon-is-on-the-brink-of-turning-into-a-carbon-source-study-warns/

“Unlike secondary forests or fast-rotation pine or eucalyptus plantations, harvesting in old-growth forests releases CO2 that has taken centuries to accumulate — carbon that, once lost, is irrecoverable in our lifetime,” the paper’s authors write.

Forests lapsing into net producers of carbon emissions is terrible news for the planet, but it is also bad news for the forests themselves. Climate change is known to contribute to intense fire seasons and prolonged droughts that can prove fatal to trees.

https://cleantechnica.com/2021/01/21/forests-absorb-twice-as-much-carbon-as-they-emit-each-year/

Overall, the data show that keeping existing forests standing remains our best hope for maintaining the vast amount of carbon forests store and continuing the carbon sequestration that, if halted, will worsen the effects of climate change.

While planting new trees (the right way) or letting them regrow naturally can play a role in mitigating climate change (and helping communities adapt to its effects), the new data show that forests that have sprouted up in the past 19 years represent less than 5% of the current global forest carbon sink.

Although important to give these young forests the chance to grow into old ones, protecting primary and mature secondary forests today is most important for curbing climate change.

… Scomo backs false prophet to hasten Armageddon:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/23/coalition-quietly-adds-fossil-fuel-industry-leaders-to-emissions-reduction-panel

Critics have raised concerns about whether some appointees to the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee may have a potential conflict of interest that could leave its decisions open to legal challenge.

The overhaul of the committee follows the government indicating it plans to expand the industries that can access its $2.5bn emissions reduction fund, including opening it to carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects by oil and gas companies.

The new chair of the committee is David Byers, a former senior executive at the Minerals Council of Australia, BHP and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, who now runs CO2CRC, an industry and government-funded CCS research body.

Byers is joined by the economist Dr Brian Fisher, a former head of the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics who has authored reports warning of the economic impact of emissions reduction targets and been accused of overestimating the cost of combating climate change.

… forest carbon trading growing:

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/why-forest-based-carbon-trading-poised-go-mainstream

Ten years after it dropped off the sustainability radar, forest-based carbon trading is finally poised to get off the ground for real.

The international market for climate finance is projected to reach $640 billion this year, according to NatWest Markets, and companies such as Walmart, Amazon, Nestlé, Alibaba and Mahindra Group are pledging to slash emissions and invest in nature as a carbon sink. Demand for forest carbon offsets could outstrip supply by 2025, carbon prices could quadruple by 2030 and offset values could be worth $125 billion to $150 billion a year by 2050.

Voluntary carbon trading is about to go mainstream, and we believe it can have a key role in safeguarding the future of our planet.

Britain grappling with natural climate solutions:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/global-britain-starts-with-being-the-world-leader-in-protecting-forests-t2c28cfbr

A key part of combating climate change is tackling deforestation, which accounts for 8 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If it were a country, deforestation would rank third in CO2 emissions, after China and the US. Forests are vital carbon sinks and preserving them is critical to cool our planet, and to safeguard the rights of the local communities and indigenous peoples who depend on and defend their forests.

https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/its-time-for-the-government-to-act-on-international-forest-destruction

The UK has announced a series of restorative tree-planting programmes at home, but we still play a large role in their destruction abroad

In just 13 years, an area almost double the size of the UK – around 43 million hectares – was wiped out due to deforestation, according to the WWF. These figures come weeks after a joint investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Greenpeace Unearthed, ITV News, and the Guardian found that one million tonnes of soya used by UK livestock farmers to produce chicken, and other food, could be linked to deforestation in the Amazon. So, although pictures of burning rainforests may seem far removed, these statistics clearly demonstrate the UK’s role in driving this destruction.

When trees are felled and either burned or left to rot, the carbon that was stored inside them enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Preserving existing mature trees can offer greater benefits to the climate than felling and replanting – as well as being rich in biodiversity, mature trees sequester far more CO2 than younger ones, offering irreplaceable ecological functions.

Though the government can be commended for their tree-planting initiatives, the threat to those rich forest habitats that already exist must not be ignored. If the government wants to lead by example, it must step up and go further to address the UK’s international contribution to climate change, and provide proposals that live up to the scale of the challenge. As the UK prepares to host COP26 this year, we must act to prevent the import of habitat destruction, and encourage other major economies to implement ambitious plans, to achieve a true global green recovery.

https://www.intelligentliving.co/restore-forests-let-trees-plant-themselves/

Ecosystems have been growing themselves for hundreds of millions of years, and forests that plant themselves are better and most diverse. That’s why a group of environmental advocates in the UK from a charity called Rewilding Britain say we should let nature do its thing instead of manually mass-planting trees. Natural dispersal of seeds boosts biodiversity, costs a lot less, and may even sequester more carbon.

People have this mindset that woodland expansion means planting trees, and that’s across the conservation sector as well. Nature is pretty good at doing this itself. Natural regeneration brings multiple potential benefits – you get the right tree in the right place, you don’t get the potential carbon emissions you get with planting on peaty soils, and you boost the complexity of the ecosystem, which builds resilience. Natural regeneration also helps species to shift and adapt to climate change. There’s growing evidence that it can sequester more carbon, although there isn’t a broad research base yet because natural regeneration is not on people’s radars.

Adaption the American way:

… GMOS trees set to be released into the wild:

https://watershedsentinel.ca/articles/into-the-wild-gmos-head-for-the-forest/

The first genetically engineered forest tree is now being considered for release into the wild. The US Department of Agriculture is now assessing a proposal from university researchers to plant a GE American chestnut tree in forests. The researchers have genetically engineered the tree to tolerate the blight Cryphonectria parasitica that decimated American chestnut populations in Canada and the US in the 1900’s.

This GE tree is engineered with a gene from wheat, key to creating the blight-tolerant trait, as well as genetic material from four other species: a plant related to mustard, two different bacteria, and a plant virus. Together, the use of this new genetic material has resulted in the “Darling 58” GE American chestnut tree.

… and replanting for climate adaptation:

https://canada.constructconnect.com/joc/news/resource/2021/01/tree-genetics-could-hold-key-to-b-c-forestry-sector-growth

Mattsson explained while climate change is already having an impact on the province’s plant species, it could open new habitat for ponderosa pine.

Ponderosa pine, known as western yellow pine (Py), is a dominant tree species in hot, dry environments like the southern interior of the province and south of the border into Washington state. It is also highly desirable and commercially important as a building material for homes, furniture and more.

“The ministry is adjusting seed planting zones to accommodate for global warming,” said Mattsson. “Changes are already happening. But while this is a risk, it is also an opportunity for ponderosa pine.”

[Federica Di Palma] “These tools will ensure that we are capitalizing on trees that will flourish in a hotter climate to enhance harvest yields in the future and help to secure B.C.’s forest industry.”

Droughts and fires increasing:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/extreme-drought-and-fire-risk-may-double-by-2060/

One study has found that human numbers exposed to the hazard of extreme drought are likely to double in the decades to come, as global heating bakes away the groundwater and limits annual snowfall.

Another team of researchers says the risks of extreme wildfire could also rise twofold in the next 40 years in the Mediterranean, southern Africa, eastern North America and the Amazon. In those places already severely scorched by frequent fire − western North America, equatorial Africa, south-east Asia and Australia − hazards could rise by 50%.

And a third, separate study warns that global temperature rise will shift the patterns of rainfall around the tropics − with the consequent risks to tropical crop harvests and to equatorial ecosystems such as rainforest and savannah.

… all the rage in America:

https://www.laprogressive.com/pacific-northwest-forests/

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/01/24/burning-questions-about-future-pacific-northwest-forests

We know that climate change worsens the conditions that encourage wildfire, like drought and hotter, drier weather. We also know that logging releases carbon stored in trees, plants, and soil, further driving climate change, and replaces native forests with monoculture plantations, increasing fire risk. It’s a vicious cycle: logging increases fire risk and logging drives climate change, which drives wildfires; wildfires lead to more logging, which increases future fire risk and further drives climate change, and so on.

On the other hand, research has shown that the iconic forests of the Pacific Northwest have the potential to store more carbon than almost any other place on earth. Though logging interests would have you believe otherwise, burned forests are great at storing carbon, too. But neither is true if these forests are logged — before or after wildfire. 

Pacific Northwest forests offer humanity another hedge against the climate crisis, but not if we allow them to be “salvaged” by corporations. We can no longer afford to view our forests as mere sources of timber — instead, we must enact policies based on science and traditional ecological knowledge that will prioritize carbon storage and ecological over short-term profit.

https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article248698865.html

Despite the terrible forest fires the West, particularly California and Oregon, suffered this past year, several environmentalists’ groups have filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S government to block approximately 11,000 miles of fuel breaks. They contend this would violate the Endangered Species Act in what they call a misguided effort to slow the advance of wildfires in six Western states.

They say the fuel breaks, in conjunction with proposed widespread clear-cutting, herbicide spraying, grazing and prescribed fire could threaten the survival of more than 100 rare wildlife species across potentially more than 340,000 square miles of federal land.

These groups fail to accept well recognized and scientifically documented evidence that the Western forests are unhealthy, overly dense and carry a huge fuel load.

https://www.denverpost.com/2021/01/24/colorado-forest-management-wildfire-drought/

Federal officials entrusted with managing millions of acres of forest in Colorado and surrounding states say they’re facing accelerated decline driven by climate warming, insect infestation, megafires and surging human incursions.

Yet this work has lagged, particularly under President Donald Trump, who tilted forest management toward logging extraction of profitable volumes of timber, mining and energy development, rather than the often-costly selective thinning that ecologists recommend to replicate nature’s resilient, multi-species mosaics. Trump also asserted, as ruinous wildfires ravaged federally-managed forests in California, a need to “rake” forests — the thinning that ecologists recommend — as part of his political argument that poor forest health was more to blame than climate warming in causing megafires.


Forest Media 22 February 2021

Forestry Corporation are still fighting to over-turn the EPA’s site specific logging conditions for burnt forests, inadvertently admitting that just 850 direct jobs are related to public native forests before publicly denying it. The combination of drought and fire has jeopardised the recovery of many forests. Forestry have had a bonus from salvage logging of plantations, though they too will struggle to recover with before tax losses of $15 million per annum going forward (despite tens of millions in additional subsidies).  Loggers are objecting to being classed as landclearing in WWF report – though the NSW Government calls it land clearing too.

Koalas are picky eaters though prefer the same flat fertile land we have mostly cleared and logged – but watch out for dropbears. New bait has been released for feral pigs. Feds failed threatened species plan due for renewed failure. As a bushfire recovery measure the Feds are funding a biomass pellet plant on Kangaroo Island.

Indonesia shifts rainforest deforestation front for palm oil to West Papua, aided by a regulatory mess and fostering community division.  Another article emphasises that as it is the forests that are standing now that can sequester carbon most effectively in the near term so it is these we most need to protect – this is proforestation. One study finding if currently regenerating secondary forests were allowed to grow worldwide, they could sequester 120 billion metric tons of carbon by 2100—the equivalent of 12 years of global fossil fuel emissions.

Dailan Pugh

Forestry in the spotlight:

… attempt to overturn EPA’s site specific logging conditions, as they admit to NSW’s native State Forests supporting just 850 direct jobs – before publicly denying it:  

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/sustainability/forestry-corp-sought-to-ease-post-bushfire-logging-curbs-to-save-jobs-20210118-p56uzn.html

The state-owned logging company has warned in a letter to the environmental watchdog that hundreds of forestry jobs are at imminent risk because of the lack of available timber following last summer's bushfires.

In a letter to the Environment Protection Authority last September, the acting head of Forestry Corporation and a Regional NSW official said the creation of so-called site-specific operating conditions for hardwood forests affected by fire had been "challenging" and were not providing enough supply to meet industry needs.

"The restricted timber supply means significant impacts on the hardwood industry are now imminent, with only a few weeks remaining before job losses are expected," the letter by Anshul Chaudhary, Forestry Corp's acting chief executive office and Gary Barnes, the department secretary, said.

Last January, for instance, Forestry Corp told the EPA "direct employment" totalled 290 for the Eden/South Coast/Tumbarumba area and 560 for the North Coast.

In response, a senior EPA official told a colleague in an email the information provided by Forestry Corp was "not useful and still gives us no ability for us to prioritise areas or what we do [post bushfires]. It's a bit disingenuous."

A spokeswoman on Monday sought to qualify those figures saying they related to those employed by Forestry Corp, and not the wider industry.

"The industry directly employs 4360 people in northern NSW and towns in southern NSW like Eden, Tumut and Tumbarumba are heavily reliant on the timber industry for a significant proportion of their employment," the Forestry Corp spokeswoman said.

"The fires provide a catalyst for an urgent rethink of the future of our public native forests across the South Coast and more broadly in NSW," Mr Field said.

Susie Russell, a spokeswoman for the North East Forest Alliance, said there was no sign of a major decline in logging operations, with Forestry Corp shifting some operations from state forests to plantations.

… logging unburnt forests:

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/governments-continue-to-ignore-climate-change-as-a-cause-of-koala-extinction,14717

In NSW, remaining unburned forests are being logged in spite of an estimated 25% loss of primary koala habitat. Around 60% of the areas zoned for timber production were affected by the fires but logging resumed with only minor changes to conditions.

With no let-up in the logging of native forests, bulldozing of remaining habitat for major urbanisation projects, infrastructure combined with ongoing failure by governments to adopt any policies of habitat protection, the koala is left in dire straits.

Identified as one of the ten most vulnerable species to climate change, globally, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and the Australian Academy of Science, governments continue to reject developing policy to establish climate change refugia.

The number of environmentally concerned Australians is growing exponentially. It’s almost impossible to understand or make sense of the complete lack of attention by governments and major parties to the most significant issues of our time.

Campaigns to save koalas need to focus on the outcomes of climate change and biodiversity loss.   

… some forests struggling to recover:

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/massive-concern-for-forests-long-term-recovery-after-black-summer-20210120-p56vgl.html?ref=rss

https://www.smh.com.au/national/massive-concern-for-forests-long-term-recovery-after-black-summer-20210120-p56vgl.html

But ecological experts from Griffith and the Australian National University, who are conducting a meta-study into research on last year’s devastating bushfires, warn that despite a break in drought conditions the appearances of recovery can be deceiving.

The drought that preceded the record-breaking blazes was so intense that forests’ capacity to bounce back to health has been greatly reduced.

The fires burnt over such a vast range of more than 10 million hectares there were few unburnt refuges from which plants and animals can emerge to repopulate the fire grounds.

Logging has also taken a toll, by reducing the overall condition of the forest estate, removing the ecologically significant large trees and disrupting old growth forest.

Ongoing salvage logging in burnt forest also takes a heavy toll on soil health and streams as well as removing logs that are important habitat for native animals.

"There’s a big risk now the wetter forests across huge swathes of Victoria and southern NSW won’t be able to recover," Professor Lindenmayer said.

In fact, most tree species in wet eucalypt forests re-sprout from seeds. The lack of big trees, which are only found in old growth forests, is a key risk to forest recovery.

Big trees produce the vast majority of a species’ seeds, pollen, flowers and nectar, as well as create the habitat relied on by more than 300 species of vertebrate animals.

Trees in dry eucalypt forests, which are adapted to hotter and more frequent fires, don’t shed seeds like their relatives in the wetter forests - they re-sprout shoots from their trunks - which is known as epicormic growth.

But in some places even these trees are struggling now.

"There is a limit to the number of times it can be cooked and re-sprout. Younger, smaller trees are particularly vulnerable," Professor Lindenmayer said.

… Forestry unable to recover as mega-losses loom:

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/sustainability/forestry-corp-facing-massive-revenue-drop-after-record-bushfire-season-20210121-p56vxa.html

State-owned Forestry Corporation says last summer's record bushfires scorched half of the native forest estate and a quarter of its softwood plantations, setting the agency on track for a sharp drop in revenue in coming years.

The corporation's latest annual report for 2019-20 showed revenue from hard and softwood operations was slightly higher than previous years but mostly because of urgent operations to salvage timber from burnt forests.

While fiscal years 2020 and 2021 still had "fire-salvage volumes, revenue is set to decline by $100 million or 25 per cent [from about $425.2 million] from fiscal year 2022 onwards," it said in its Statement of Corporate Intent.

The volume drop in sawlogs and fire-related expenses mean "the earnings drop to a deficit position", it said. An accompanying chart put projected losses before interest and tax at about $15 million in each of the three years from 2022 to 2024.

The widespread blazes have revived the long-standing issue of how much native logging is subsidised and whether it should even continue in state forests where habitat for koalas, greater gliders, owls and other wildlife was suddenly significantly reduced.

“It is madness that taxpayers would pay hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up the unnecessary destruction of our native forests and wildlife from logging," Mr Field said.

Loggers object to being classed as land clearing:

https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/7088228/forest-industry-hits-out-at-wwf-after-deforestation-report/

Leading figures in the forest industry have hit out at the WWF for what they say is "misleading commentary" regarding deforestation in Tasmania.

A WWF report, released this week, found that new deforestation hotspots were emerging in Tasmania.

Eastern Australia was identified in the report as a so-called deforestation front - making Australia the only developed nation in the world to be included in the list of 24 fronts, which are defined by a significant concentration of deforestation hotspots.

Institute of Foresters of Australia president Bob Gordon said timber production involved harvesting and then regenerating areas of forest, so it didn't cause permanent removal of tree cover. "Therefore it cannot be classed as deforestation as per the internationally accepted definition of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations," he said.

WWF conservation scientist Martin Taylor said "knee-high regrowth doesn't a forest make" and "you've got to let about 300 years go by and then you might get forest".

Koala notes:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-01-17/koala-behaviour-myths-misconceptions-drop-bears-eucalpyts-mating/12985910

But if you try to touch a wild koala, it can viciously lash out, says Alistair Melzer, a koala ecologist at Central Queensland University.

"There's a cooling effect of tree trunks, so on hot days you'll have koalas hugging tree trunks, sitting in the cool," Dr de Villiers says.

So while in some areas there may only be one species of eucalypt they regularly eat, in others it can be more.

And koalas also nibble on other trees including wattle, casuarina, pine trees, camphor laurel, paperbarks and brush box, or tasty new shoots on paper bark trees (Melaleuca).

They pick and choose leaves according to how juicy and nutritious they are, which can depend on the area's soil moisture levels and the season, Dr de Villiers says.

But koalas don't only need suitable trees to feed on at night. They also need trees that give them good shelter while resting and digesting during the day.

During droughts and bushfires they also seek water from sources like dams, swimming pools, bird baths, water bowls and even hand-held bottles.

"When you see koalas going to water bowls and swimming pools or approaching people, they're in distress."

As ecologist Matthew Crowther from the University of Sydney says, koalas like fertile flat land — which is also popular with humans.

As a result, the animals often live in urban environments, on the outskirts of big cities or sometimes in the middle of small towns.

You may have heard the koala has a relative, called Thylarctos plummetus, that "drops" down from as much as 8 metres on unsuspecting tourists and bites them on the neck.

New bait for feral pigs:

https://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/7094466/new-weapon-in-fight-against-feral-pigs-after-decade-in-the-making/?cs=4698

One of the nation's most destructive pests, there are an estimated 24 million pigs spread over 45 per cent of Australia's mainland, causing significant environmental damage

"Sodium nitrite is a food preservative which is safely used in low concentrations - people and most animals can tolerate modest amounts of sodium nitrate, but pigs lack the protective enzyme that is present in other species," Dr Staples said.

"HOGGONE renders pigs unconscious before they die, typically within one to three hours, without suffering."

It breaks down very quickly in the environment, leaving no toxic residues.

Feds failed threatened species plan due for renewal:

https://theconversation.com/its-not-too-late-to-save-them-5-ways-to-improve-the-governments-plan-to-protect-threatened-wildlife-147669?utm

Australia’s Threatened Species Strategy — a five-year plan for protecting our imperilled species and ecosystems — fizzled to an end last year. A new 10-year plan is being developed to take its place, likely from March.

It comes as Australia’s list of threatened species continues to grow. Relatively recent extinctions, such as the Christmas Island forest skink, Bramble Cay melomys and smooth handfish, add to an already heavy toll.

The midterm report in 2019 found only 35% of the priority species (14 in total) had improving trajectories compared to before the strategy (pre-2015). This number included six species — such as the brush-tailed rabbit-rat and western ringtail possum — that were still declining, but just at a slower rate.

In fact, 2018 research found agricultural activities affect at least 73% of invertebrates, 82% of birds, 69% of amphibians and 73% of mammals listed as threatened in Australia. Urban development and climate change threaten up to 33% and 56% of threatened species, respectively.

Protecting our natural heritage is an investment, not a cost. Now is the time to seize this opportunity.

Feds fund Kangaroo Island biomass plant:

http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/17662/proposed-wood-pellet-plant-in-australia-awarded-5-5m-grant

Australia-based Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers has been awarded a $5.5 million bushfire recovery grant from the Australian government to support the development of a biomass pellet plant and small-scale biomass power plant.

Once operational, the pellet plant will be capable of accepting fire-damaged logs and any other logs that cannot be sold into export markets. Pellets produced at the plant are expected to be exported using the chip-handling facility at the proposed Kangaroo Island Seaport at Smith Bay.

The project will also include a small-scale power plant to support the pellet mill. That facility will be capable of dispatching base-load power to the electricity grid.

Additional information is available on the KIPT website

Indonesia’s regulatory mess and community division facilitates clearing rainforests for palm oil:

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/papua-tribe-moves-to-block-clearing-of-its-ancestral-forest-for-palm-oil/

JAKARTA — Indigenous people in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province are protesting against a company that’s preparing to raze their ancestral forest for a plantation megaproject plagued by allegations of irregularities and wrongdoing.

If developed in full, the Tanah Merah project would result in the clearance of 280,000 hectares (692,000 acres) of the third-largest stretch of rainforest on the planet, to be replaced with several contiguous oil palm estates run by various companies — some of which are owned by unknown investors hiding behind anonymously held firms in the Middle East.

Palm oil, used in everything from snack foods and cosmetics to biofuels, is one of Indonesia’s leading export commodities. But its production is associated with a range of problems, from climate change and wildfires to labor rights abuses and land grabbing.

Some of the permits for the project were signed by a politician who was serving out a prison sentence for corruption. Others were allegedly falsified, with a signature of a high-ranking official said to have been forged on key documents.

Egedius himself has reported receiving death threats over his resistance to IAL’s plans. Now, he says, the company’s presence has divided the Auyu, with some people continuing to oppose the company and others supporting it.

“Before the company came, we lived a peaceful life,” Egedius said. “But because of its presence in our ancestral territory, we have become enemies with our own brothers and sisters.”

A 2019 government audit found that 81% of Indonesia’s oil palm plantations are in breach of a range of regulations, including by not holding the required permits and encroaching into areas designated as protected.

Much of the areas earmarked for plantations are still forested. Madani data show there were still 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of rainforests within existing oil palm concessions in the Papua region that have yet to be torn down. Revoking the permits could prevent the forests from being cleared.

Promotion of proforestation as the most urgent necessity to begin reducing atmospheric carbon:

https://www.ehn.org/forest-carbon-sequestration-2649749746/particle-8

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C special report released in 2018 found that, in addition to dramatic emissions reductions, humans must quickly find a way to remove a tremendous amount of existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to stay below a 1.5°C rise in average global temperatures and avoid the worst climate change related harms.

But as talks of massive tree planting ventures get under way, Leverett and other researchers are attempting to make an important distinction. They say that, while tree planting campaigns can play a role in climate change mitigation, it is the forests that are standing now that can sequester carbon most effectively in the near term.

They also warn that these invaluable assets are being squandered as forests are cleared worldwide.

In 2019, Moomaw and his co-authors published a scientific review finding that the capacity of forested lands to sequester carbon dioxide could be increased significantly. They say the fastest way to do this is through what they call "proforestation," the natural growth and development of standing forest ecosystems.

They devised the term because, unlike forest-based interventions currently being evaluated for their climate change mitigation capacity, such as reforestation or afforestation, there was not a succinct term that scientists and policymakers could use to discuss the carbon value of naturally developing, undisturbed forests.

"Proforestation will sequester more total carbon in the near term, when…it's most important to do it, than anything else that is out there," he said.

One reason for this is that newly planted forests may take "decades to a century before they sequester carbon dioxide in substantial quantities," according to the proforestation review.

Another study found that if currently regenerating secondary forests were allowed to grow worldwide, they could sequester 120 billion metric tons of carbon by 2100—the equivalent of 12 years of global fossil fuel emissions.

Any distraction from forest preservation goals is particularly consequential right now as global tree cover is lost at a rate of about 78,000 square miles per year, according to Mikaela Weisse, a project manager at Global Forest Watch. This is an area about the size of Nebraska. Old, intact forests, those that are relatively free from industrial extraction and typically have high carbon sequestration and biodiversity values, are being lost to cutting and fragmentation at a pace of about 80 square miles per day.

The consequences of these losses include both the forfeiture of future sequestration potential and also the release of ancient carbon stores back into the atmosphere. When a forest is cut, it becomes a greenhouse gas emitter instead of a sink.

Nurse logs, fallen, slowly decaying trees, serve multiple ecological purposes, including a special habitat for more trees to grow and a moisture repository to cool the forest and sustain it through drought. Snags are another classic old forest feature, long dead trees, still standing, providing nutrients and habitat. Unlike the bulk of extracted wood products, researchers have found these features can hold on to their carbon for hundreds of years in temperate regions.

Forest ecology influences rates of decomposition and also the ultimate destination of stored carbon. Interconnected systems of biological decomposers such as bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates facilitate the transfer of carbon from decaying material into the soil.

Carbon is still released to the atmosphere when woody material decays in a forest, but Moomaw and his team report that in old, intact forests, more than half of total carbon stores may be located in the soil, nurse logs, snags, and other woody debris.

Just like the carbon sequestered in trees, soil carbon is often lost to the atmosphere after logging, which researchers say may be due to disturbance related changes in physical, chemical or microbial make-up of the soil.

But if a 140-year-old forest is cut, the majority of its sequestered carbon would be released into the atmosphere.

"You've got so much there that you're holding on to, the last thing you want to do is release it all," said Leverett. "You can't make it up for a long time."

There is an open question as to whether, when, and how old forests finally stop increasing carbon stores and the answer seems to be at least partially related to species composition. In Pacific Northwest Douglas fir forests, researchers found negligible net carbon addition after 400 years.

However, redwood stands of northern California persist for many thousands of years and Robert Van Pelt, forest ecologist and affiliate professor at the University of Washington, said that it would take at least 1500-2000 years for a redwood stand to reach a "steady state." Even after this time, carbon dynamics would continue to fluctuate depending on stand density, canopy gaps, and fire history.

Moomaw and his co-authors conclude their review with policy recommendations that include inventorying American forests to identify the best areas for proforestation and practicing proforestation on suitable public land. They also wrote that private landowners could potentially be incentivized to maintain carbon sequestering forests on their properties.


Forest Media 15 January 2021

The Central Coast community is ramping-up its campaign to have its Koalas recognised and protected, though the Government isn’t listening. In rejecting 31 of the 42 recommendations of the NSW Koala Inquiry the NSW Government is promising more of the same. With this and the Koala SEPP debacle (and an apparent deal over the Redbank Power Station) it is no wonder Matt Kean and John Barilaro are making-up. The Wollemi Pine is the first to be classified as an “asset of intergenerational significance”.

In Tasmania the Swift Parrot moratorium has been extended to include more forests, pending the outcome of the federal court case. As in NSW, the Federal Government is increasing frustrating freedom of information requests.

Scientists are becoming increasing outspoken about “the ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction. 2020 rivalled 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded. While Australia has warmed 1.44oC since 1910, the arctic has risen more than 6oC. This year will witness a 50% increase in atmospheric CO2 above the average for most of human history, and its exponentially increasing. A new study finds we have already released enough CO2 to lock in 2o warming, its just a matter of how long it takes. Forests take-up 30% of our CO2 emissions, though they are rapidly losing their ability to do so, and may become net carbon emitters within a few decades.

Kakadu’s floodplain forests are being inundated by rising seas, Many insect populations are crashing at a rate of 1-2% each year. Even deep in the intact Amazon rainforest most understory birds are in decline. As forests degrade, and trees dies, they become more vulnerable to burning. And in India a bird flu pandemic is gathering momentum amongst wild birds, including migratory species.

Australia is predictably missing as more than 50 countries commit to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife – though actions rarely match words. Meanwhile we have lost our ranking as one of the world’s 10 worst deforesters (not by much), slipping to 14th – though we are increasing, with forestry in NSW a major contributor – at least we have the distinction of being the only developed nation on the list. The great fix of Carbon Capture and Storage is failing dismally.

Dailan Pugh

Central Coast community call for Koala protection:

https://coastcommunitynews.com.au/central-coast/news/2021/01/koala-sightings-prompt-calls-for-action/

Coast Community Alliance (CEA) is calling on local politicians to unite in having the Central Coast region recognised as a koala sanctuary.

“We need to ensure their habitat is urgently protected and that wildlife corridors between these populations are not fragmented through development.

“More recently there have been sightings at McMasters Beach, Ourimbah and in the Basin camping area in the Watagans, only a few hundred metres from where logging is taking place in Olney State Forest.”

“The Coast can play a pivotal role in the overall survival of this iconic and extremely vulnerable native animal, but our elected leaders need to act now and put a stop to development in or around koala habitat in our region,” Cassar said.

“CEA has written to local State MPs in the hope that they will lobby the State and Federal Governments to urgently make it a priority to protect our local koala population, but so far we have not received any support.

Government’s response to Koala Inquiry, business as usual:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/alarmingly-relaxed-government-slammed-for-koala-inquiry-response-20210111-p56t9b.html

Koala advocates say the NSW government is not doing enough to save the animal from extinction after it backed without qualification a quarter of the recommendations of an upper house inquiry into the marsupial's populations and habitat.

In its formal response into the koala inquiry, the government supported 11 of the 42 recommendations, while offering "support in principle" to 17 others. It "noted" the remaining 14.

Among the recommendations supported was the suggestion the government rule out opening old-growth forests within the state reserve for logging, and that it create Georges River National Park to secure habitat on Sydney's southern fringe.

However, it only "noted" the call to investigate setting up a Great Koala National Park in northern NSW.

[Cate Faehrmann] “Many of the key recommendations, the vast majority of which were supported by all committee members because they are what needs to be done to save koalas from extinction, seem to have been rejected outright."

Separately, Prince Charles on Tuesday will use his Sustainable Markets Initiative to launch a global fund to raise $US10 billion ($13 billion) to support biodiversity, including in Australia, by 2022.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-13/nsw-government-slammed-for-response-to-koala-inquiry/13054712?nw=0

It's a symbol of Australia and at risk of becoming extinct. But the NSW government won't commit to most of the recommendations made by a parliamentary inquiry into saving the animal. Sarah Gerathy reports. [interviews Kate Washington, Gladys Berejiklian, Jacqui Mumford]

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-12/koala-hospital-disappointed-by-nsw-response-to-population-study/13051326

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan said she was bitterly disappointed but not surprised.

"To me it's just a lot of smoke and mirrors and not much grunt behind it," she said.

"There's just a lot of supporting in principle or duly noted, which is basically saying nothing's going to be done and some of the things they said that they're actually doing are very loose.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said in a statement that he had asked the Chief Scientist and Engineer, Hugh Durrant-Whyte, to assemble an expert panel to advise on how to double the state's koala population.

"This advice will be used to develop a new NSW Koala Strategy, due for release in the coming months."

[Flanagan] "We need to tighten the legislation to protect all these native fauna that are so precious to this country … this document just smacks of no change."

Matt Kean and Barilaro make-up:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/no-let-up-likely-for-kean-as-environmental-challenges-keep-mounting-20201231-p56qz1.html

If Matt Kean, NSW's Energy and Environment Minister, thought conservation groups would cut him some slack in 2021 after last year's successes, he might be disappointed.

Yes, his energy road map sets the state on track to lure three times as much renewables into the grid than the existing Snowy Hydro scheme. And Kean is well on the way to adding 400,000 hectares of land to the national parks estate after doubling his early goal.

Kean, unusual for a Liberal minister anywhere in Australia, says "the number one issue is climate change" and dealing with it – the implementation of his new energy policy will be a top priority in 2021.

(Garnaut) "[The energy plan] sets the state up to be a leader of the development of zero-emissions industry."

Another unresolved issue potentially putting Kean at odds with the Nationals is habitat destruction. It threatens koalas and other species already left more vulnerable after last summer's record-breaking bushfires.

Chris Gambian, chief executive of the NSW Nature Conservation Council, says groups like his "won't let [Kean] rest on his laurels", with "vast amounts of land clearing" still going on.

"One core challenge for 2021 is what happens with koalas," Gambian says. "We've got an extinction crisis. What are they going to do to make sure koalas don't go extinct by 2050?"

The formal creation of a Great Koala National Park near Coffs Harbour and stopping logging in state forests would be "a good next step but it won't be enough", he says.

Barilaro, who is also forestry minister, indicates he is open to change.

"After last year's fires, there's no question there's been an impact on both national parks and all our floral resources, including our timber resources," he tells The Sun-Herald. As a result, he's prepared to "revisit all that".

Assuming the Premier keeps her role, a reshuffle is expected by March, with speculation swirling that Kean could be shifted out of energy and environment into the transportation portfolio.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/i-believe-in-climate-change-how-barilaro-s-new-bromance-with-kean-changed-nationals-policy-20210108-p56sq5.html?btis

Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro says he is open to ending logging in state forests as part of improved relations he has struck with Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean.

Ties between the two senior ministers in the Berejiklian government frayed last year over issues such as land-clearing and feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park. Since taking a month off for health reasons last September, however, Mr Barilaro says he found new areas of common ground.

"I've decided to do things a bit differently," Mr Barilaro told The Sun-Herald. "I've found it's been easier [to work with Kean] since I got back."

An improved relationship between Mr Barilaro and Mr Kean could help resolve some of the issues that Nationals and Liberals have clashed over since coming to power in 2011. These include habitat-clearing curbs on farmers and whether old-growth logging should be phased out in state forests, particularly after the bushfires.

Mr Barilaro, who is also forestry minister, said that "after last year’s fires, there’s no question there’s been an impact on both national parks and all our floral resources, including our timber resources". As a result, he's prepared to "revisit all that".

Wollemi Pine an “asset of intergenerational significance”:

https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/science/environment/2021/01/15/wollemi-pines-protection/

The ancient Wollemi pine, nicknamed the dinosaur tree, has been declared an “asset of intergenerational significance” in NSW, bolstering efforts to shield the species from future bushfires.

Some of the adult trees are estimated to be up to 1000 years old, and the species may be up to 90 million years old.

The secret site in the Blue Mountains where the Wollemi grow is the first to receive the NSW government’s protection label.

The designation means the government can take extra measures to protect the “living fossils” from bushfires, protecting them for future generations.

“Despite the incredible efforts by the NPWS and RFS teams last summer, several hundred juvenile trees in the protected site were impacted and are yet to resprout,” Environment Minister Matt Kean said.

Tasmanian moratorium extended pending court outcome:

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/stt-agrees-to-halt-logging-in-49-coupes/

Sustainable Timber Tasmania and the Bob Brown Foundation have reached an agreement with STT agreeing to halt logging in 49 coupes in the North Eastern tiers. Sources: Mercury, Timberbiz

The agreement means a Federal Court injunction battle scheduled for Monday this week did not go ahead.

STT had already agreed to halt logging in 19 coupes, but has now added a further 30 to its no-go list after coming to an agreement this week.

The Mercury in Hobart reported this week that the injunction application had been an interim measure to stop logging the coupes in question while both sides awaited a decision from the full bench of the Federal Court over the legality of Tasmania’s Regional Forest Agreement (RFA).

Australia losing its freedom:

https://www.themandarin.com.au/147747-australian-conservation-foundation-audit-of-foi-requests-finds-environment-minister-dept-agencies-stifling-access/

New analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has found that environment minister Sussan Ley refused outright 39 freedom of information requests in the last financial year, while granting just one in full and three in part.

The audit Access denied: How Australia’s freedom of information regime is failing our environment examines government FOI data, as well as more than 100 FOI requests made by ACF, over the past five years.

It is one of the first major pieces of research to look at freedom of environmental information in Australia, and reveals an increase in refused FOI requests, more redactions, higher charges and longer delays for access to government documents.

Scientists get bolshie as climate crisis worsens:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/13/top-scientists-warn-of-ghastly-future-of-mass-extinction-and-climate-disruption-aoe

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises.

The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood.

“The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.

“Ours is not a call to surrender – we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future,” it adds.

Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.

The report follows years of stark warnings about the state of the planet from the world’s leading scientists, including a statement by 11,000 scientists in 2019 that people will face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless major changes are made. In 2016, more than 150 of Australia’s climate scientists wrote an open letter to the then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, demanding immediate action on reducing emissions. In the same year, 375 scientists – including 30 Nobel prize winners – wrote an open letter to the world about their frustrations over political inaction on climate change.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/13/top-scientists-warn-of-ghastly-future-of-mass-extinction-and-climate-disruption-aoe

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises.

The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood.

“The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.

“Ours is not a call to surrender – we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future,” it adds.

Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.

The report follows years of stark warnings about the state of the planet from the world’s leading scientists, including a statement by 11,000 scientists in 2019 that people will face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless major changes are made. In 2016, more than 150 of Australia’s climate scientists wrote an open letter to the then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, demanding immediate action on reducing emissions. In the same year, 375 scientists – including 30 Nobel prize winners – wrote an open letter to the world about their frustrations over political inaction on climate change

https://theconversation.com/worried-about-earths-future-well-the-outlook-is-worse-than-even-scientists-can-grasp-153091

While the problems are too numerous to cover in full here, they include:

  • a halving of vegetation biomass since the agricultural revolution around 11,000 years ago. Overall, humans have altered almost two-thirds of Earth’s land surface
  • About 1,300 documented species extinctions over the past 500 years, with many more unrecorded. More broadly, population sizes of animal species have declined by more than two-thirds over the last 50 years, suggesting more extinctions are imminent
  • about one million plant and animal species globally threatened with extinction. The combined mass of wild mammals today is less than one-quarter the mass before humans started colonising the planet. Insects are also disappearing rapidly in many regions
  • 85% of the global wetland area lost in 300 years, and more than 65% of the oceans compromised to some extent by humans
  • a halving of live coral cover on reefs in less than 200 years and a decrease in seagrass extent by 10% per decade over the last century. About 40% of kelp forests have declined in abundance, and the number of large predatory fishes is fewer than 30% of that a century ago.

Essentially, humans have created an ecological Ponzi scheme. Consumption, as a percentage of Earth’s capacity to regenerate itself, has grown from 73% in 1960 to more than 170% today.

Then there’s climate change. Humanity has already exceeded global warming of 1°C this century, and will almost assuredly exceed 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052. Even if all nations party to the Paris Agreement ratify their commitments, warming would still reach between 2.6°C and 3.1°C by 2100.

Financed disinformation campaigns against climate action and forest protection, for example, protect short-term profits and claim meaningful environmental action is too costly – while ignoring the broader cost of not acting.

Scientists must not sugarcoat the overwhelming challenges ahead. Instead, they should tell it like it is. Anything else is at best misleading, and at worst potentially lethal for the human enterprise.

https://westender.com.au/on-track-for-a-ghastly-future-experts-grim-prognosis-for-the-planet/

… the world becomes more feverish:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-08/2020-ties-with-2016-as-worlds-hottest-year-on-record-eu-climate/13043854

Last year tied with 2016 as the world's warmest on record, rounding off the hottest decade globally as the impacts of climate change intensified, the European Union's earth observation program says.

In 2020, temperatures globally were an average of 1.25 degrees Celsius higher than in pre-industrial times, Copernicus said.

Although COVID-19 lockdowns meant global emissions of CO2 dipped in 2020 compared with recent years, the concentration of the gas accumulated in the atmosphere continued to rise.

Last year also saw the highest temperature ever reliably recorded, when in August a California heatwave pushed the temperature at Death Valley in the Mojave Desert up to 54.4C.

The Arctic and northern Siberia continued to warm more quickly than the planet as a whole in 2020, with temperatures in parts of these regions averaging more than 6C above a 30-year average used as a baseline, Copernicus said.

The State of the Climate report released by the BOM and the CSIRO in November reported that Australia's warming is now up to 1.44 plus or minus 0.24C since 1910.

… 2oC warming may now be locked in:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/earth-is-now-committed-to-a-2c-hotter-future/

Some time this year, thanks to fossil fuel combustion and the destruction of natural ecosystems, the levels of carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere will be half as high again as the average for most of human history. That is, they will be more than half-way to doubling.

“The human-caused build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is accelerating,” said Richard Betts, of the Met Office. “It took over 200 years for levels to increase by 25%, but now, just 30 years later, we are approaching a 50% increase.”

A third study warns that yet more warming is now inevitable: the greenhouse gases already released must take average planetary temperatures from the present rise of more than 1°C to beyond 2°C − the limit that 195 nations vowed not to exceed when they met in Paris in 2015.

Chinese and US researchers report in Nature Climate ChangeChen Zhou of Nanjing University, the lead author. “After accounting for this effect, the estimated future warming based on the historical record would be much higher than previous estimates.”

And his co-author Andrew Dessler, of Texas A&M University, said: “The bad news is that our results suggest we have most likely already emitted enough carbon to exceed 2C.”

But this could be delayed by urgent action. “If we can get emissions to net zero soon, it may take centuries to exceed 2°C.”

… forests losing ability to take up CO2:

https://www.sciencealert.com/forest-will-start-emitting-more-co2-than-they-absorb-by-2050-if-we-don-t-make-changes

Forests and other land ecosystems today absorb 30 percent of humanity's CO2 pollution, but rapid global warming could transform these natural 'sinks' into carbon 'sources' within a few decades, opening another daunting front in the fight against climate change, alarmed researchers have said.

Under current greenhouse gas emission trends, plants across half the globe's terrestrial ecosystem could start to release carbon into the atmosphere faster than they sequester it by the end of the century, researchers reported this week in Science Advances.

Ecosystems that store the most CO2 - especially tropical and boreal forests - could lose more than 45 percent of their capacity as carbon sponges by mid-century, a team led by Katharyn Duffy from Northern Arizona University found.

"Anticipated higher temperatures associated with elevated CO2 could degrade land carbon uptake," said the study, based not on modelling but data collected over a period of 25 years.

"The temperature tipping point of the terrestrial biosphere lies not at the end of the century or beyond, but within the next 20 to 30 years."

… Kakadu’s floodplain forests disappearing:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-13/rising-sea-levels-visible-in-kakadu-national-park/12292646

Floodplains around Australia's largest national park are undergoing a visible transformation as rising sea levels push saltwater further from the coast into its freshwater river systems.

If emissions continue to rise, modelling by the CSIRO from 2017 shows almost half of Kakadu's freshwater wetlands could be inundated with saltwater within 50 years, spelling out drastic repercussions for biodiversity.

Due to a process that began decades ago, evidence of saltwater inundation is plain to see in areas of the park and beyond, where mangroves — shrubs that thrives in brackish water — have taken over as far as the eye can see.

At Tommycut Creek, a remote channel off the Mary River near Kakadu's western boundary, what was once a paperbark forest is now a graveyard of bleached and stricken trunks.

The "dead forest" offers a glimpse into the future for similar low-lying coastal areas along the Top End coast, which are most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

… insect life collapsing:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/11/insect-populations-suffering-death-1000-cuts-scientists

Insect populations are suffering “death by a thousand cuts”, with many falling at “frightening” rates that are “tearing apart the tapestry of life”, according to scientists behind a new volume of studies.

The insects face multiple, overlapping threats including the destruction of wild habitats for farming, urbanisation, pesticides and light pollution.

The 12 new studies are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Nature is under siege [and] most biologists agree that the world has entered its sixth mass extinction event,” concludes the lead analysis in the package. “Insects are suffering from ‘death by a thousand cuts’ [and] severe insect declines can potentially have global ecological and economic consequences.”

Prof David Wagner of the University of Connecticut in the US, the lead author of the analysis, said the abundance of many insect populations was falling by 1-2% a year, a rate that should not be seen as small: “You’re losing 10-20% of your animals over a single decade and that is just absolutely frightening. You’re tearing apart the tapestry of life.”

“Insects are really susceptible to drought because they’re all surface area and no volume,” Wagner said. “Things like dragonflies and damselflies can desiccate to death in an hour with really low humidity.”

Another of the papers sets out actions that can protect insects. Individuals can rewild their gardens, cut pesticide use and limit outdoor lighting …

The biggest systematic assessment of global insect abundances to date, published in April 2020, showed a drop of almost 25% in the last 30 years, with accelerating declines in Europe. It indicated terrestrial insects were declining at close to 1% a year. The previous largest assessment, based on 73 studies, led the researchers to warn of “catastrophic consequences for the survival of mankind” if insect losses were not halted. It estimated the rate of decline at 2.5% a year.

Other PNAS papers found both declines and rises. Butterfly numbers have fallen by 50% since 1976 in the UK and by 50% since 1990 in the Netherlands, according to one. It also showed the ranges of butterflies began shrinking long ago, dropping by 80% between 1890 and 1940.

… impacts extending deep into the forest:

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/patches-of-amazon-untouched-by-humans-still-feel-impact-of-climate-change/?utm

  • Researchers looking at the abundance of insect-eating birds in a pristine patch of forest deep in the Brazilian Amazon have seen populations of dozens of species decline over the past 35 years.
  • The remoteness of the site and the still-intact tree cover rule out direct human activity as a factor for the population declines, with researchers attributing the phenomenon to the warmer and more intense droughts caused by climate change, which in turn puts stress on the birds and their food sources.
  • A similar phenomenon has been observed in the Caatinga shrubland ecosystem of northeastern Brazil, where rising temperatures, severe droughts, and irregular rainfall may lead to the extinction of birds and mammals over the next 60 years, even inside national parks.

The data comparison indicated that the birds that experienced the greatest population decline since the early 1980s are the terrestrial insect-eating ones and those that live close to the ground …

Of the 79 species of birds captured, the study indicated that 52 had seen their populations decline, while 24 saw an increase. Three remained stable.

[Stouffer] “They are not in danger of extinction while there are many intact forests, but our data suggest that their populations are decreasing, which makes it crucially important to protect as much forest area as possible,” he said. This becomes even more urgent when considering that these birds do not tolerate small fragments of forest, and the regeneration of degraded areas takes more than 30 years to provide adequate habitat for them again.

… as trees die forests become more fireprone:

https://phys.org/news/2021-01-highlights-role-forest-fuels-climate.html

California's drought of 2012-2016 killed millions of trees in the Sierra Nevada—mostly by way of a bark beetle epidemic—leaving a forest canopy full of dry needles.

In the study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, scientists found that the presence of recently dead trees on the landscape was a driver of wildfire severity for two large fires that occurred toward the end of the drought: the 151,000-acre Rough Fire in 2015 and the 29,300-acre Cedar Fire in 2016.

It identified pre-fire tree mortality as influential on all measures of wildfire severity on the Cedar Fire, and on two of three measures on the Rough Fire. For the Rough Fire, it was the most important predictor of trees killed by fire. For the Cedar Fire, weather conditions during burning had the strongest influence on fire severity.

… bird flu pandemic starts in India:

https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/science-environment/1402374-gujarat-bird-flu-confirmed-in-four-districts

The Gujarat government sounded a bird flu alert on January 5.

In the following days, districts like Surat, Vadodara,Tapi, Kutch, Narmada, Valsad, Mehsana etc. recorded deaths of birds, especially crows, ducks, pigeons, peacocks and lapwings, the health department said.

''Avian influenza is a low pathogenic virus, meaning itis less lethal than other bird flu viruses. Not a single case of avian influenza has been reported in humans so far,'' it said.

https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/forest-dept-monitors-waterbodies-in-dist-to-keep-a-watch-on-sick-birds-flu/articleshow/80272702.cms

As of Thursday, the number of districts recording unexplained bird deaths in Maharashtra has now gone up to over 250.

While, Sachindra Singh, commissioner of animal husbandry (state), added, “We are culling birds on a large scale to stop the virus from spreading.”

The animal husbandry department of Maharashtra confirmed that 238 bird deaths were reported in the state on Wednesday, … Close to 2,100 birds have died in the state since January 8

Australia an international laggard:

… missing in action:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/11/50-countries-commit-to-protection-of-30-of-earths-land-and-oceans

A coalition of more than 50 countries has committed to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife.

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which includes the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans before the One Planet summit in Paris on Monday, hosted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

In the announcement, the HAC said protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water.

Greta Thunberg tweeted: “LIVE from #OnePlanetSummit in Paris: Bla bla nature Bla bla important Bla bla ambitious Bla bla green investments…”

… slips to 14th worst deforester in world (as NSW lifts clearing rates):

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/california-sized-area-of-forest-lost-in-just-14-years/

The report, titled Deforestation Fronts: Drivers and Responses in a Changing World, looks at the state of forests and causes of deforestation in 24 “active deforestation fronts” (MAP), which account for over half of all tropical and subtropical deforestation that occurred over the 14-year period.

Using five satellite-based datasets, the report finds 43 million hectares (166,000 square miles) of deforestation during the period [2004-2017].

“We know what has to be done: protect critical biodiversity areas and sustainably manage forests, halt deforestation and restore forest landscapes, recognize and protect the tenure rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, support local people to build sustainable livelihoods, enhance landscape governance, and transform our economies, food and financial systems to better account for the value of nature,” wrote Marco Lambertini, Director General WWF International, in the report’s preamble.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/forest-loss-hotspots-bigger-germany-000102100.html

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a groundbreaking report on land use in 2019, in which it outlined a string of looming trade-offs in using land.

In that same year, the UN's biodiversity panel said that 75 percent of all land on earth had been "severely degraded" by human activity.

Forests are an enormous carbon sink, together with other vegetation and soil sucking up roughly a third of all the carbon pollution humans produce annually.

Yet they continue to disappear rapidly, threatening irreparable losses to Earth's crucial biodiversity.

https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/australia-deforestation-land-clearing-conservation/13054460

Australia is the only developed nation on the list of the world's deforestation hotspots, according to a new report by WWF, previously known as the World Wildlife Fund.

"Nearly a million hectares of forest has been cleared just in Queensland and New South Wales and just in the hotspot areas," Dr Martin Taylor, Senior Scientist with WWF Australia, told Hack.

But in Eastern Australia, agriculture is by far the biggest driver of deforestation.

"Eighty-five per cent of it is just for beef cattle pasture or for sheep pasture," Dr Taylor said.

"People do see their local favourite patch of bush being bulldozed for a housing or industrial estate, or a road... That turns out to be a small percentage of the total destruction in Eastern Australia. Most of it is out bush, far from the public gaze, and most people don't know it's going on," he explained.

https://www.wwf.ch/sites/default/files/doc-2021-01/Deforestation%20fronts%20-%20drivers%20and%20responses%20in%20a%20changing%20world%20-%20full%20report.pdf

[The report identifies eastern Australia as a major deforestation front due to cattle ranching and large scale logging. Australia has been squeezed out of the top ten countries to 14 th worst deforester in the world].  

Drivers of deforestation

Development of livestock pasture is the chief driver of forest loss in Eastern Australia, accounting for 75%[8, 9]. There was a spike in large-scale clearing for crops in Queensland after laws were weakened in 2013, but these crops were primarily grain and fodder for livestock[10]. This loophole was closed in 2018[

Harvest for timber is a minor driver of loss, accounting for 16%, mostly in the state of New South Wales (NSW). Intensified logging of state forests, in addition to significant private native forestry[12], make it the primary driver of deforestation and degradation in NSW[13].

Forest loss 2004-2017

0.7Mha of forests (3.5% of forest area in 2000) when looking only at estimates from Terra-I; ~2Mha 2004-17 (4%), up to 5Mha including secondary forest clearing based on SLATS[5]

Main outcomes

Growth of protected areas has largely stalled due to lack of government interest, except for rapid growth of indigenous protected areas, which are largely in unforested arid areas[17]. Vegetation laws are governments’ preferred approach to reduce deforestation but have had a chequered history and are now universally weaker than they were in the mid-2000s.

Underlying causes

Grazing land capital value is increased greatly with forest clearing; landholders are often mortgaged to banks and are under pressure to extract more value by clearing[15]. Climate change is a significant and growing cause of deforestation because of increasingly severe droughts, fires and low humidity affecting production and driving forest loss[16].

Recommended future actions

  • Increase investments in protected areas and strengthen forest protection laws.
  • Promote verifiable progress in deforestation-free supply chains, especially for beef.
  • Enhance funding to support farmers and graziers to regenerate forests, with incentives for those who demonstrate improved forest condition.
  • Develop policies and structures to support a transition from native forest logging to plantations and independently certified forest management.

… industry’s solution of artificial Carbon Capture and Storage a sham:

https://environmentjournal.online/articles/carbon-capture-technology-will-not-solve-the-climate-crisis-report-says/

The vast majority (81%) of carbon captured globally to date has been used to extract more oil via the process of Enhanced Oil Recovery, according to a new report conducted by the Tyndall Centre and commissioned by Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Globally, there are just 26 CCS plants in operation, with capacity currently at around 39MtCO2 per year, this is about 0.1% of annual global emissions from fossil fuels.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s climate campaigner Jess Cowell said: ‘The world needs urgent cuts to climate emissions every year of this decade but CCS can’t deliver anything meaningful until the 2030s, if at all. Politicians and CCS backers in the fossil fuel industry want us to trust them with a technology with a long history of over-promising and under-delivering.

‘This report makes it clear that Carbon Capture and Storage is a dangerous distraction from the necessary action to cut climate emissions from our energy sector in this crucial decade.

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/carbon-capture-and-storage-wont-work-critics-say/

Forest Media 8 January 2021

Another study of species’ particular tree hollow requirements shows the limiting availability of suitable hollows, for Superb Parrots finding that their preference large hollows with specific attributes means only 0.5% of potentially available hollows are structurally suitable, noting there is already a shortage with access further limited by more aggressive competitors and the need for this colonial nester for clusters of trees. They recommend protecting hollow-bearing trees with DBH >77 cm.

An invertebrate expert warns that with only 25-33% of Australia’s terrestrial invertebrate fauna formally described we can’t assess the dramatic impact of the bushfires on trillions of invertebrates, highlighting that the wet forest refugia along the Great Dividing Range has led to high edemicism. Lest we forget, the Conversation has taken a retrospective review of the fires affects on vertebrate fauna and plants, highlighting cases such as the Smoky Mice that ironically died from smoke inhalation, the risk of the loss of endemic native bees, spiders and plants due to frequent fires, and the massive impact of runoff after the fires on fish, such as the Macquarie perch.

In America climate heating is fostering increases in the frequency and intensity of wildfires, with massive impacts on wildlife and watersheds, and changing microclimates affecting recovery. Like in NSW, American politicians are pushing for inclusion of biomass as renewables despite the overwhelming evidence of its deleterious impacts. Meanwhile in British Columbia (Canada) 140,000 hectares of old-growth forests continues to be clearfelled each year, as public debate intensifies and minor concessions made. Concerns that the conversion of natural grasslands to tree plantations is having major impacts.  

2020 was Australia’s 4th warmest on record,1.15oC above average. A study of the Black Summer bushfires found they were “unmatched” because 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record, with temperatures 2oC above average. If current climate trends continue, we can expect “catastrophic” bushfires that would be “beyond anything we had experienced in the past” to become more frequent, with Australian temperatures as much as seven degrees above average before the end of this century if emissions are not reduced. An international study warns the world could soon undergo irretrievable change, with it possible the 1.5oC average warming could be reached within the next seven years as the ‘worst case’ scenario unfolds. There are concerns that the worldwide trend for shifts to mega fires may represent passing of another tipping point.

Dailan

Only the best for Superb Parrot, and there’s not enough:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-02/superb-parrots-pickiness-highlights-conservation-risk/13026452

New research indicates superb parrots are so fussy about the tree hollows they choose to lay eggs in that they are limited to about one in 200 available nesting sites — far fewer than previous studies suggested.

Superb parrots are a migratory bird that range over a large part of south-eastern Australia and choose only certain eucalypt species that are large enough to host multiple tree hollows.

It is thought there are somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 of the birds living in the wild.

"We found that of all the trees we climbed, and all the hollows we surveyed, there was 0.5 per cent that were suitable for superb parrots," Ms Rayner said.

"Our study just shows what's present, it doesn't go into 'can they access that hollow, can they actually nest there, are there other constraints on them?'

"Whether they'll actually secure that hollow and be able to nest in it is yet another battle that they'll have to face."

Ms Rayner said superb parrots were generally a timid species, which often lost the fight for tree hollows against bossier birds like crimson rosellas and introduced feral pests like starlings.

After climbing 75 of the oldest trees, and inspecting 487 hollows, Ms Rayner said the situation for the little parrot was actually much more dire.

"There is a much greater demand for hollows than there are hollows in the landscape that meet their needs," she said.

But the new research showed that it was not good enough just to leave a few large trees in housing estates — because the superb parrots are so sociable.

"Superb parrots will nest in colonies, so they don't just look for individual trees … they also need a cluster of trees, because come the end of the breeding season, they flock together and help each other raise the young," Ms Rayner said.

"So they're not looking for individual trees, they're looking for landscapes that have multiple suitable nest trees.

"Actually finding an area where a colony has established is a precious, precious thing."

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582ea0d1579fb3ef8b09706d/t/5fc4213ff8cdb769c6658da6/1606689097584/1-s2.0-S0378112720314870-main.pdf

Superb parrots selected cavities that were deeper, with wider floors and entrance sizes than random cavities. Cavities with the combination of selected traits comprised only 0.5% of the standing cavity resource.

Our results reveal that superb parrots are highly selective in their choice of cavities that they use for nesting. Superb parrots selected trees with the most abundant cavities, and their nests were deeper, with wider floors, wider entrance sizes and in larger stems than random cavities. This particular combination of traits was extremely uncommon in the study area. Our results confirm those of other studies that show parrots strongly select for the traits of cavities … and adds to the evidence that suitable cavities for wildlife are rare in degraded landscapes.

We suggest that a precautionary approach to conservation management of superb parrot nesting habitat should focus on protecting cavity-bearing trees (where at least one cavity is detected from the ground) with DBH >77 cm (i.e. two standard deviations below the mean nest tree DBH). Enhanced conservation outcomes may also be gained from protecting trees with 10 or more potential cavities as these trees are more likely to be a nesting site than not (i.e. probability >0.5, Fig. 2).

What we don’t know:

https://theconversation.com/photos-from-the-field-zooming-in-on-australias-hidden-world-of-exquisite-mites-snails-and-beetles-147576?utm

Australia’s terrestrial invertebrate multitude contains several hundred thousand uniquely Australian organisms. Most remain poorly known.

Hidden from view, many trillions more invertebrates burned or were displaced by the fires. And yes, invertebrates are animals too.

Most invertebrates are poorly known because there are so many species and so few people working on them. In fact, it’s likely only a quarter to one-third of Australia’s terrestrial invertebrate fauna is formally described (have a recognised scientific name).

Every species has an evolutionary history, a particular habitat, a set of behaviours reflecting that history, and a role to play in the ecosystem. And many terrestrial invertebrates belong to especially ancient lineages that record the deep history of Australia’s past.

The moss bug family Peloridiidae, for example, dates back more than 150 million years. For context, the kangaroo family (Macropodidae) is likely 15-25 million years old.

This continent-wide drying fragmented wet forests that covered much of the continent, resulting in the restriction of many invertebrate groups to pockets of wetter habitat, especially along the Great Dividing Range and in southwestern Australia.

You can join iNaturalist, a citizen science initiative that lets you upload images and identify your discoveries.

Lest we forget the bushfires:

https://theconversation.com/summer-bushfires-how-are-the-plant-and-animal-survivors-6-months-on-we-mapped-their-recovery-142551?utm

Click through below to explore the impact Australia’s summer of fires had on an already drought-ravaged landscape and the work being done to rescue and recover habitats.

… smoking is bad for the Smoky Mouse:

https://theconversation.com/death-by-irony-the-mystery-of-the-mouse-that-died-of-smoke-inhalation-but-went-nowhere-near-a-fire-139906

Some 119 animal species were identified for urgent conservation intervention following the fires. The smoky mouse was among them. Modelling showed 26% of its distribution overlapped with burnt areas, and in NSW more than 90% of the species’ habitat burned.

In a note attached, the vet suggested bushfire smoke had killed the smoky mouse – and asked, in a nod to the species’ name, if this was a case of “death by irony”.

Canberra, like many other cities and towns, was shrouded in thick smoke in January. But the breeding facility was more than 50 kilometres from the nearest fire zone, so I thought the vet’s theory was unlikely.

Over the following month, eight more smoky mice died. I inspected the lungs of one – to my shock, it contained thousands of brown smoke particles. Once I knew the distribution of particles to look for, I found them in most of the other dead mice too.

The mice didn’t die immediately after inhaling the smoke. They hung on, but when temperatures in Canberra spiked at more than 40℃, they went into respiratory distress and died.

There is hope for the smoky mouse. Motion-sensing cameras set up in Kosciuszko National Park after the fires have recorded smoky mice at seven burnt sites.

But as global warming escalates, fires in Australia are predicted to become even worse. Now more than ever, the future of the smoky mouse, along with many other Australian animals, hinges on decisive climate action. Captive breeding programs and blind hope will not be enough.

… to bee or not to be:

https://theconversation.com/jewel-of-nature-scientists-fight-to-save-a-glittering-green-bee-after-the-summer-fires-139555

Many native plants, such as guinea flowers, velvet bushes, Senna, fringe, chocolate and flax lilies, rely completely on buzz-pollinating bees for seed production. Introduced honey bees do not pollinate these plants.

There are several reasons green carpenter bees are vulnerable to fire, including:

  • the species uses dead wood for nesting, which burns easily
  • if the nest burns before the offspring matures in late summer, the adult female might fly away but won’t live long enough to reproduce again, and
  • the bees need floral resources throughout the year.

Grass trees flower prolifically after fire, but the dry stalks are only abundant between two and five years after fire. Banksia species don’t survive fire, and need to grow for at least 30 years to become large enough for the bees to use.

With increasingly frequent and intense fires, there’s not enough time for Banksia trunks to grow big enough, before they’re wiped out by the next fire.

We were horrified to see the intensity and speed of the fire that turned our efforts to ash, along with most of the remnant, long (more than 60 years) unburnt Banksia habitat the bees rely on. In New South Wales, much of the species’ natural range was also burnt.

The carpenter bee is not the only species facing this problem. Many Australian plants and animals are not resilient to high frequency fires, no matter their intensity or time of year.

The ecological importance of longtime unburnt forest needs urgent recognition, as increased fire frequency – both of natural and “managed” fires – is likely to drive a suite of species to extinction.

… for whom the bells toll:

https://theconversation.com/after-last-summers-fires-the-bell-tolls-for-australias-endangered-mountain-bells-139665

The Stirling Ranges were ravaged by this summer’s fires, and three-quarters of this WA national park now experience fire cycles twice as frequent as species recovery rates.

With an astonishing range of colours, the Stirling Range mountain bells are the glamour plants in WA’s floral bouquet.

Many plants and animal species here may never recover. Yes, many Australian plants evolved to cope with bushfire - but not with how frequently these fires are reoccurring.

Contemporary fire is now one of the single greatest threats to what remains of this extraordinary ecosystem.

The mountain bells need more than 15 years or more to rebuild their soil seed bank, as these plants are killed by even the mildest of fire.

… muddying the waters:

https://theconversation.com/before-and-after-see-how-bushfire-and-rain-turned-the-macquarie-perchs-home-to-sludge-139919

When the rains finally arrived, the situation for many fish species went from dangerous to catastrophic.

A slurry of ash and mud washed into waterways, turning freshwater systems brown and sludgy. Oxygen levels plummeted and water quality deteriorated rapidly.

Hundreds of thousands of fish suffocated. It was akin to filling your fish tank with mud and expecting your goldfish to survive.

Macquarie perch like rocky river sections with clear, fast-flowing water, shaded by trees and bushes on the banks.

Massive change wrought on our rivers over the past century means Macquarie perch are now only found at a handful of locations in the Murray-Darling Basin.

A study in 2017 found a Macquarie perch population that was restricted to a 9km section of the creek but was doing quite well.

To our surprise, some Macquarie perch had survived. But with most of the catchment fully burnt, and no vegetation to stop runoff, we knew it was a ticking time bomb.

They rescued ten fish. Days later, rain washed ash and silt into the channel. Within hours, the once-pristine creek became flowing mud with the consistency of cake mix.

While maintaining the rescued populations, we must redouble our efforts to improve their natural habitats.

… some losses unaccountable:

https://theconversation.com/im-searching-firegrounds-for-surviving-kangaroo-island-micro-trapdoor-spiders-6-months-on-im-yet-to-find-any-139556

Kangaroo Island Micro-trapdoor spiders exist only on Kangaroo Island. They live in short, 6cm burrows, built neatly into creek banks. They are slow, calm spiders, spending most of their time in their burrow, determinedly holding the door shut with their fangs.

Sadly, all the known western populations of this enigmatic spider were destroyed. I am yet to find any survivors in the fire ground, but it is early days.

But the majority of Australia’s invertebrate species are yet to be discovered. Many will be similarly at risk, but we have no way of measuring the scale of risk or the repercussions. That’s a fact we should all find scary.

As California burns their crisis reflects ours:

https://www.marinij.com/2021/01/02/california-voice-for-forests-resilient-to-wildfire-the-time-to-act-is-now/

The primary lesson: Because we are confronted with climate-driven dangers beyond our immediate control, coupled with decades of management that has left our forests and rangelands in an unnatural state, we must take urgent action to address things we can control – forest health, the condition of our landscapes and the resiliency of communities in fire-prone areas.

We know what this fire season has wrought. In the months of August and September five of the six largest wildfires in history scorched this state. Combined, those five megafires burned parts of 22 of our 58 counties. All told, more than 8,200 fires blackened more than 4 million acres – more than doubling the previous record for any year. Even now in December, wildfires are searing parts of Southern California.

The toll on wildlife habitats and watersheds has been no less severe.

We know that the effects of climate change have made every fire season increasingly dangerous, as temperatures keep rising, our wildlands become more parched, and extreme wind events become more common.

Right now we can control our natural landscape. Urgent action is needed.

https://www.theweek.com/articles/956874/how-rebuild-california-forests-climate-mind

The Creek Fire, which burned east of Fresno in the western Sierra Nevada, flamed with such frenzy that it produced a cloud resembling an atomic bomb blast, with smoke reaching the stratosphere. That fire and others, like the huge, lightning-sparked North Complex fires in the Sierras north of Sacramento, didn't burn in the usual patchy fashion of wildfires, leaving lightly singed spots mixed with more intensely burned islands. They torched much of the acreage within their boundaries, killing even large trees that would have withstood smaller blazes.

The resulting charred landscapes, a consequence of decades of fire suppression policies and a warming climate, may represent a funeral for some forests, which struggle to regenerate on their own after such severe conflagrations. This new regime of ferocious flames threatens to completely change familiar forest ecosystems, tipping towering pine stands into lands dominated by squat scrub species. Forest ecologists warn that this may harm biodiversity, lower the capacity of forests to store carbon, and even threaten water supplies.

Among foresters, the general rule is that seeds can move a maximum distance that's twice the height of the mother tree. "The seeds of the conifer trees are too heavy to disperse out into that area," says Matthew Hurteau, a forest ecologist at the University of New Mexico. "And then the other thing is, when you burn off all the tree cover, it gets a hell of a lot hotter and drier in that environment." That means the seeds that do sprout may have trouble surviving.

The clearest evidence for such specialization comes from experiments called provenance tests that were done starting in the 1930s, in which researchers planted tree seeds at various elevations. The general pattern that came out was that plants grew best within about 500 feet up or down from their source. "Anything more than 500 feet was really moving them more than what was optimal," says North.

For that reason, the U.S. Forest Service has a rule of thumb that trees should not be replanted outside their original 500-foot elevation band. The rule is codified in the California tree seed zone map, first published in 1946. It's had a couple of revisions since then, but it's still the document that silviculturists refer to when sourcing their seeds.

In their efforts to revegetate with the most local seeds possible, reforestation workers found the 500-foot rule satisfactory — until the impacts of climate change began to reveal themselves. As temperatures warmed, trees' historic habitats sometimes no longer matched their preferred climate.

Biomass under fire:

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-12-28/wood-burning-power-plants-clean-energy

The mammoth pandemic stimulus and spending bill Congress passed last week includes billions of dollars to expand solar, and wind energy. These are good measures to address greenhouse gas emissions. But the bill also contains a rider that would undercut those efforts.

A provision added to the bill, pushed for by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), declares that cutting down trees and burning them for energy is carbon-neutral. This, of course, makes no sense. Burning wood will add to global warming — even if the wood replaces coal or natural gas, as scientific organizations and hundreds of scientists have long argued.

In recent years, however, there has been a bizarre but dangerous push to retrofit power plants and factories to burn wood. The European Union has spurred this effort by adopting laws to require more low-carbon renewable energy (which by themselves are good), but then simultaneously allowing wood to count as a carbon-free, renewable fuel. Countries in the EU responded by subsidizing power plants to burn wood. Utilities lobbied for this shift after realizing that their coal-fired power plants could stay in business if modified at public expense to mix in some use of wood.

But the process of burning wood results in more carbon being released into the atmosphere than burning coal. This happens in two ways. Trees in a forest store carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. When trees are cut down, more than half the wood is left to rot or burned in producing a usable form of fuel (usually wood pellets), which releases carbon into the air. The wood fuel that is ultimately burned in power plants generates still more carbon. Overall, using wood produces two to three times as much carbon per kilowatt hour as burning coal or natural gas.

Burning wood for energy is accelerating with alarming speed in Europe. One study in the journal Nature found a 70% increase in Europe’s tree-cutting since 2015. And much of Europe’s wood is coming from the U.S. If the world tried to pursue this strategy at even a small scale, the consequences would be dire for the world’s forests. To replace just 2% of the world’s fossil fuels with more wood would require doubling the commercial harvest of trees.

The battles to stop destroying Canada’s oldgrowth continues:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/the-saga-over-b-c-s-oldest-biggest-trees-set-for-a-turning-point-in-2021-1.5853280

"There's active logging going on right now, taking our old growth out and leaving a big mess" said Knox. "When they put in the roads on the mountainside, and after they log there is erosion and it causes landslides into salmon bearing rivers." 

Conservationists along the south coast who have blockaded logging roads to try and keep B.C.'s ancient trees from being felled want a further commitment from the province to protect B.C.'s biodiversity. Communities that rely on the sector for their livelihood also want assurances new rules won't put an end to life as they know it.

In September 2020, the B.C. government released its Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) titled A New Future for Old Forests, which lays out an ambitious set of recommendations meant to help the province change its forest management policies on a systemic level to better protect endangered ancient ecosystems as well as support a sustainable, long-term forestry industry.

The report asked that immediate action be taken to defer logging in areas where significant old growth trees are.

Sierra Club B.C. estimates that more than 140,000 hectares of old-growth forests — those with trees at least 120 years old — are logged each year along the B.C. coast and in the Interior.

Concern that natural grasslands are being converted to plantations:

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/opinion/article/2001398966/afforestation-efforts-threat-to-savannas-and-grasslands

This is a potential threat to drylands, grasslands, savannas and the rangelands they support. Large areas targeted for forest restoration in Africa, Asia and South America are covered by savanna and grassland.

They are in fact ancient, productive and biodiverse and support millions of livelihoods. They also provide many important ecosystem services, which would be lost if converted to forests.

Savanna and grassland store up to a third of the world’s carbon in its soils. They keep streams flowing, recharge groundwater, and provide grazing for livestock and wildlife.

Grasslands can store carbon reliably under increasingly hot and dry climates. The same conditions make forests vulnerable to die-back and wildfires. Restoring grasslands is also relatively cheap and has the highest benefit-to-cost ratio of all the world’s biomes.

Meeting the international targets for forest restoration requires large-scale afforestation. Nearly half the land pledged for forest restoration is earmarked for plantations, mostly of fast-growing exotic species. These provide a fraction of the ecosystem services of the natural vegetation they replace. And they store 40 times less carbon than naturally regenerating forests.

No amount of ecosystem restoration will solve the climate crisis if its underlying causes are not addressed. The clearing of forests and other ecosystems for commodity agriculture and timber urgently needs to be regulated. Emissions from burning fossil fuels need to be drastically reduced.

Time is fast running out:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-08/sydney-news-heatwaves-floods-fire-drought-climate-change-report/13040668

A new Bureau of Meteorology report has confirmed 2020 saw the highest temperature ever recorded in the Sydney basin —reaching 48.9 degrees Celsius in Penrith Lakes on January 4 last year.

The Annual Climate Statement 2020 also confirmed last year was Australia's fourth-warmest year on record, with the annual national mean temperature coming in at 1.15C above average.

The report explores the droughts, bushfires, floods and heatwaves the country experienced following Australia's driest year on record in 2019.

https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/black-summer-study-grim-warning-on-australias-fire-future/news-story/2ef2a3704860e52eab3b3342e809850e

Last year’s fire season was “unmatched” because 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record, a study of factors behind the Black Summer bushfires found.

The study warns horror fire seasons are likely to continue as well as “rapidly intensify” because of climate change.

More fires and more intense fires are predicted to become a feature of southeast Australia, lead author Nerilie Abram from the Australian National University said.

The Black Summer bushfires were in many respects the worst Australia has seen.

But Professor Abram said we could expect to see “catastrophic” bushfires that would be “beyond anything we had experienced in the past” as current climate trends continued.

But in southeast Australia in 2019 it was two degrees warmer than the historical mean temperature, Professor Abram said.

Temperatures in Australia could be as much as seven degrees on average above pre-industrial levels before the end of this century if emissions were not reduced, she said.

“Our new work highlights the strong evidence that southeast Australia’s climate has shifted and that this type of fire weather is becoming more frequent, prolonged and severe.”

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/seven-years-to-ground-zero-for-the-climate-crisis/

LONDON, 4 January, 2021 − Within the next seven years, the world could undergo irretrievable change. It could emit enough greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion to cross the threshold for dangerous global heating in the year 2027.

Or it could exceed what is supposed to be the globally-agreed target for containing catastrophic climate change − just 1.5°C above the average level for most of the last 10,000 years − a little later, in the year 2042.

But on present trends, according to new research, the world is committed, whatever happens, to the crossing of its own threshold for irreversible climate change within that 15-year window.

Again and again, last year alone, scientists found that conditions initially proposed as the unlikely “worst case outcome” are already taking shape.

On the evidence of the latest study in the journal Climate Dynamics, however, they now have even less time in which to enforce dramatic cuts to fossil fuel use.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00382-020-05521-x

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/were-approaching-critical-climate-tipping-points-qa-with-tim-lenton/?utm

Awareness of climate tipping points has grown in policy circles in recent years …

“Some of the tipping elements are changing more rapidly than others,” Lenton told Mongabay during a December 2020 interview. “The most concerning include the West Antarctic Ice Sheet – part of it looks to be in irreversible retreat – and the Amazon rainforest – where droughts and changing fire regimes are accelerating forest loss, alongside renewed human pressures.”

Lenton says the the rate at which we appear to be approaching several tipping points is now ringing alarm bells, but “most of our current generation of politicians are just not up to this leadership task”.

Tim Lenton: Fires generate their own reinforcing feedbacks – drying the fuel load, creating local convection and winds, and even thunderstorms – and such self-amplifying feedbacks are the vital ingredient for creating tipping point dynamics.

Fire regimes in the wet tropics can pass a tipping point from localized fires to much larger ‘mega fires’ – a bit like a phase transition in physics. Such mega-fires now seem to be happening in the American West, Australia and even the Arctic. So there looks to be a localized fire tipping point, and some signs that it is being passed at similar times across large areas – making for a bigger tipping point.


Forest Media 31 December 2020

A bad year for forests, starting with droughts and fires and ending in floods. Across the landscape millions of trees have been killed by both drought and fire, with the combination dramatic. As climate heating gains momentum, complex ecosystems have been devastated and wildlife populations decimated. Protecting forests is a vital necessity to help mitigate climate change, though here and around the world they are being cleared at an accelerating rate despite increasing scientific and political recognition of the urgent need. We know we need to protect forests, though it is up to us to do it.  

The NSW Government’s strategy for private lands is to focus on using the $350 million biodiversity trust to pay regional landowners for protecting koala habitat as an alternative to regulation. Announcing $11.8 million for 1,094 hectares of land in the Southern Highlands to be protected koala habitat in perpetuity – putting a value (ie $11,000 ha) on protecting core Koala habitat on public lands.  Meanwhile Kean has announced  additions of 912 hectares to Cataract National Park and 93 hectares combined to Maria National Park in Crescent Head near Kempsey and Bongil Bongil National Park south of Coffs Harbour, stating “You can’t save koalas without first protecting their habitat and the best way to do that is by fortifying and expanding our national parks.

South-east floodplain forests recognised as nationally threatened. Protests in Tasmania’s Blue Tier forests and the Tarkine. New species of underground orchid found at Barrington Tops - likely dispersed by wallabies and bandicoots.

China’s ban on wood imports (pine pulplogs?) expand to NSW while having significant industry impacts. Forestry Corporation promoting State Forests for recreation. PR push claims Kangaroo Island environment recovering for tourism.

Meanwhile the impacts of climate heating continue, with Japan’s treeline expanding upslope and Brazil’s drier forests transitioning to carbon sources rather than sinks. More warnings that increasing encroachments into rainforests are a viral threat. As clearing gathers pace worldwide, there are more pleas to protect forests, particularly those that are still intact.

The growing evidence of the heath benefits of forest bathing encourage a growing recreation industry.

 Dailan

NSW Government moves marginally on Koala conservation:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/cash-for-koalas-nsw-government-considers-paying-farmers-to-preserve-habitat-20201221-p56pc1.html

Farmers would be paid by the NSW Government to preserve koala habitat on their properties under a proposal being formulated by senior ministers.

The plan, which involves compensating farmers under the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, is being developed following the failure of the koala planning policy that split the coalition and threatened to plunge the NSW government into minority in September.

Both NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro and Liberal Environment Minister Matt Kean are working to tailor the $350 million biodiversity trust to pay regional landowners for protecting koala habitat.

“[It's] putting in place stewardship payments to private landholders that want to give up some of their land for conservation, and in this case for koala habitat. Let's pay them for it just like we do under the biodiversity legislation,” Mr Barilaro said.

“The National Party will be working to bring back a SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) to deal with koala habitat, bring back a strategy that deals with doubling its population and protecting its habitat.”

Mr Kean said he was confident the coalition partners would be able to reach an agreement on the divisive policy.

“Just like we did on energy, the Deputy Premier and I will find a way through this issue that protects private property rights and helps preserve our most loved and iconic animal,” he said.

Mr Kean has recently made changes to the biodiversity trust’s board, bringing in former deputy NSW Nationals leader Niall Blair who is now a professor of food sustainability at Charles Sturt University, and economist John Pierce, the former Australian Energy Market Commission chairman and state treasury secretary.

The Nationals are planning to revisit their September requests of reducing the proposed number of koala-feed tree species from 123 to 60, as well as ensuring private native forestry is decoupled from the SEPP.

https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/nsw-extends-national-parks-by-1000-hectares-to-protect-koalas/news-story/9f7f38e4b60bb98ccb7ac8c201f65737#.thge6

The NSW government is expanding three national parks by a thousand hectares in total to secure land for the state‘s vulnerable koala population.

The new land will add 912 hectares to Cataract National Park three hours west of Byron Bay, and 93 hectares combined to Maria National Park in Crescent Head near Kempsey and Bongil Bongil National Park south of Coffs Harbour.

“This expansion of key areas of our national parks secure critical habitat across a number of animal and plant species, most notably our iconic koalas,” Environment Minister Matt Kean said.

“You can’t save koalas without first protecting their habitat and the best way to do that is by fortifying and expanding our national parks, which is exactly what we are doing.”

https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/environment/nsw-landowners-share-118-million-to-create-koala-safe-zones-ng-7eee1c00dd191ecc3f19eb592b230d5e

Five NSW landholders will share a $11.8 million pot of government money in exchange for designating parts of their land safe zones for koalas.

The recently signed agreements will make a total of 1,094 hectares of land in the Southern Highlands protected koala habitat, a status that will remain in perpetuity.

That means those parts of the land will not be developed or logged.

“The area is home to one of the most significant koala populations in the State, and a large portion of koala habitat in the Southern Highlands is found on private land,” NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said.

The money will be paid out in annual portions by the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust.

The BCT has entered into over 226 conservation agreements with private landholders over the last two years, snapping up land covering more than 59,300 hectares at a cost of over $125 million to protect various types of wildlife.

“The BCT’s conservation tenders are a great way for landholders to protect habitat for native species while diversifying their income,” said Mr Kean.

The NSW government committed $350 million to the BCT last year.

Theoretical protection for SE floodplain forests:

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7059436/coastal-forests-to-be-protected-under-national-environment-laws/

A large stretch of coast hit by the Black Summer bushfires will be protected under national environment laws, after its eucalypt forests were listed as critically endangered.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley on Monday declared river-flat eucalypt forests on coastal floodplains between Newcastle in NSW and Sale in Victoria would be listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

At least 70 per cent of native vegetation on the coastal floodplains of NSW has been destroyed since European settlement.

Climate change was also listed as a key threat to the forests.

The warming and the drying of the climate in southern and eastern Australia is expected to significantly reduce run-off to coastal rivers and streams, as well as intensifying drought events which could lead to mass die-offs.

Tasmanians battle on:

https://www.victorharbortimes.com.au/story/7070498/protesters-descend-on-mountain-bike-trails/?cs=9676

Mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and activists converged on a Tasmanian town to protest logging of coupes near mountain bike trails in the area.

Protesters gathered at the head of the famed Derby trails in the state's north-east on Tuesday afternoon before heading up the Krushkas trail to a giant Eucalyptus Regnan commonly referred to as 'big mama'.

The Blue Tier forests …

Local mountain bike guide Kerry Costello said logging the forests people were coming to see made no sense for local businesses or ecologically.

… blockade re-established in Tarkine:

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/12/tarkine-summer-blockade-launched/

The Bob Brown Foundation has moved in overnight to establish a blockade camp in the Pieman River area of takayna/Tarkine, in Tasmania. The camp will halt Sus Timbers Tasmania’s machinery access to proposed logging coupe BO092C.

Logging in this coupe was commenced in February 2020 but was abandoned after a successful four day blockade by Bob Brown Foundation volunteers. The coupe has been rescheduled for logging this summer.

The Foundation is now asking that anyone who is able support the takayna/Tarkine Summer Blockade, ‘to prevent the destruction of this incredible forest’.

In other Tasmanian forest news, the logging machinery has been removed from the contentious Lost Falls area, where Bob Brown and five others were arrested recently.

New Underground Orchid dispersed by wallabies and bandicoots:

https://theconversation.com/like-finding-life-on-mars-why-the-underground-orchid-is-australias-strangest-most-mysterious-flower-144727

What about a small, pale tuber that spends its whole life underground, blooms underground and smells like vanilla? This is the underground orchid, Rhizanthella, and it’s perhaps the strangest Australian orchid of them all.

In 1931, another underground orchid was discovered in eastern Australia at Bulahdelah in NSW …

And most recently, in September, I confirmed an entirely new species of underground orchid, named Rhizanthella speciosa, after science illustrator Maree Elliott first stumbled upon it four years ago in Barrington Tops National Park, NSW.

For much of its life, an underground orchid exists in the soil as a small white rhizome (thickened underground stem). When it flowers, it remains hidden under leaf litter and soil close to the surface, its petals think and pink, its flower head a little larger than a 50 cent coin.

All orchid species need a buddy, a particular soil fungus, for their seeds to germinate, and Rhizanthella must have its habitat to survive.

We observed swamp wallabies and long-nosed bandicoots visiting the site where R. slateri grows.

We suspect they disperse the seeds of underground orchids via their excrement, finding the orchid among truffles and other goodies in the leaf litter and soil of the forest floor.

In Western Australia, these animals are locally extinct. Without bandicoots and wallabies to transport seeds away from the parent plant, the natural cycle of renewal and establishment of new plants has been broken.

China timber bans biting:

https://www.liverpoolchampion.com.au/story/7070545/timber-industry-reeling-as-jobs-lost-due-to-china-ban/

Earlier this month, a notice from Chinese customs officials confirmed that Tasmanian and South Australian timber imports would be banned from entering China due to claims that a pest known as a bark beetle had been detected in a log shipment. It came after timber from Victoria and Queensland had already been locked out.

According to the South China Morning Post, China's customs agency announced last week that it would now be banning timber imports from New South Wales and Western Australia, as well, after "live forest pests" were supposedly found in logs that had come from the two states.

Tasmanian Forest Products Association chief executive Nick Steel said the impact of the bans was already being felt within Tasmania's timber industry, confirming that about 100 jobs had so far been lost.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-12-28/china-ban-causes-job-losses/13017450

  • 150 harvest contractors lose their jobs in South Australia's Green Triangle
  • Another 100 jobs have been lost in Tasmania
  • The timber industry is lobbying for assistance to process more logs in Australia

The industry fears up to 1,000 forestry jobs in the Green Triangle, which incorporates Western Victoria and South East South Australia, will be lost in that region alone by March 2021 if the bans continue.

Mr Hampton said timber harvesting crews had stockpiled large volumes of pulp wood, but because none of it was moving it was hampering the entire operation of harvest and export.

Pulp wood is low-grade timber exported as logs. It is generally used in China to produce bio-energy, kitchen panels and to make paper and pulp.

China had been taking 95 per cent of Australia's exports, much of it through Portland in south-west Victoria, but about 20 per cent of that timber could be processed in Australia if changes to processing equipment were made here.

Forestry Corporation launch their 2021 PR:

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/12/fun-in-forests-this-summer/

There are more than two million hectares of state forests in NSW, which means there are plenty of unique areas to discover and activities to share.

‘There are so many places where you can bring the family and picnic or camp for free – even the family dog is welcome!’ said Ms Faulkner.

‘State forests contain thousands of kilometres of roads for four-wheel driving, mountain biking, trail biking, horseriding and bushwalking.

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/7062182/exploring-local-forests-heres-what-you-need-to-know/

https://aboutregional.com.au/holidays-a-good-time-to-head-into-the-forest/

It’s holiday season and if you’re looking for something to do, one place to start is the Forestry Corporation of NSW website, where you can learn a little bit more about what fun can be had in a state forest nearest to you.

Tumut State Forest has trails that cater for both walkers and mountain bike riders of all abilities, and offers wonderful views over the Tumut township and Tumut River valley.

Also near Tumut is Micalong Swamp, a unique and special site in Buccleuch State Forest.

Box Cutting Rainforest Walk in Bodalla State Forest … The Bermagui Picnic Area … Near Canberra, the surrounding native bush of Tallaganda State Forest …

Kangaroo Island bouncing back?

https://www.miragenews.com/one-year-on-bushfire-regeneration-in-south-australia/

A year on from the devastating fires that burnt almost half of Kangaroo Island and 23,000 hectares of the Adelaide Hills, a carpet of green covering the landscape leaves little doubt that the island and hills are bouncing back. Birdsong is deafening, kangaroos and koalas are content, flora is flourishing, and the community is closer than ever. Life has well and truly returned to the bush, and with it the opportunity to experience regeneration at a once-in-a-lifetime scale.

“It’s healing to the soul and it’s exciting to see what’s coming back,” Alison said. “You feel that nature’s doing what nature is supposed to do.

“It will be three to five years until it looks normal-ish but don’t wait for that to come and look. You need to see it growing to appreciate what it’s doing. If you only come when it’s totally regrown, you miss that story.”

Japan’s receding tree line:

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20201229/p2a/00m/0dm/043000c

NIIGATA -- The edges of the forest on Mount Fuji have crept up several dozen meters in altitude over the past 40 years, an ecological study has found.

The research team made fixed-point observations of the tree line some 2,400 meters up Mount Fuji's southwest slope, in the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka between 1978 and 2018. In that period, Salix reinii willow trees advanced some 40 meters further up, while tall Japanese larches climbed 30 meters higher. It was also confirmed that the increase in individual trees had accelerated over the last two decades compared to the first 20 years during the period.

Professor Sakio commented that the tree line had "risen very quickly considering the harsh environment." He added that if warming continues, it's "possible that Japanese larches and other greenery will no longer be able to exist there, and that they will be replaced by other plants."

Converting forests into carbon sources:

https://phys.org/news/2020-12-brazilian-forests-transitioning-carbon-sources.html

 A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Brazil has found that some non-Amazonian forests in Brazil have already begun to transition from carbon sinks to carbon sources. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their 33-year study of deciduous, semi-deciduous and evergreen forests in Brazil's state of Minas Gerais.

In looking at their data, the researchers found that forests in the studied region (which covered 33 hectares of land) were sequestering approximately 2.6% less carbon per year in 2020 than they were back in 1987. And during that same time period, the area released approximately 3.4% more carbon dioxide. In looking at total amounts being sequestered versus emitted, they found that the region now emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than is sequestered—changing it from a carbon sink to a carbon source. The data also showed that the region experienced a tipping point back in 2013.

The researchers suggest that the problem is not unsolvable—even with a warming planet, it would be possible for the region to transition back to a carbon sink if land management changes were made. They suggest the Brazilian government ban forest burning and promote forest planting. They note also that efforts to reverse global warming by reducing global emissions could help, as well. They also point out that failure to make changes will likely mean that more forested areas in Brazil (and other parts of the world) will transition from carbon sinks to carbon sources—including rainforests in the Amazon river basin.

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/51/eabd4548

Our results highlight a long-term decline in the net carbon sink (0.13 Mg C ha−1 year−1) caused by decreasing carbon gains (2.6% by year) and increasing carbon losses (3.4% by year). The driest and warmest sites are experiencing the most severe carbon sink decline and have already moved from carbon sinks to carbon sources. Because of the importance of the terrestrial carbon sink for the global climate, policies are needed to mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases and to restore and protect tropical seasonal forests.

… In general, these forests are shifting from carbon sinks to carbon sources. Currently, the forests under intermediate climate conditions and the forests under the driest and warmest conditions are already carbon sources, probably because they may have reached a stress threshold. Meanwhile, the carbon sink of the wettest and coldest forests is continually declining.

Another viral warning:

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/22/africa/drc-forest-new-virus-intl/index.html

Humanity faces an unknown number of new and potentially fatal viruses emerging from Africa's tropical rainforests, according to Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976 and has been on the frontline of the hunt for new pathogens ever since.

"We are now in a world where new pathogens will come out," he told CNN. "And that's what constitutes a threat for humanity."

HIV emerged from a type of chimpanzee and mutated into a world-wide modern plague. SARS, MERS and the Covid-19 virus known as SARS-CoV-2 are all coronaviruses that jumped to humans from unknown "reservoirs" -- the term virologists use for virus' natural hosts -- in the animal kingdom. Covid-19 is thought to have originated in China, possibly in bats.

Since the first animal-to-human infection, yellow fever, was identified in 1901, scientists have found at least another 200 viruses known to cause disease in humans. According to research by Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, new species of viruses are being discovered at a rate of three to four a year. The majority of them originate from animals.

Experts say the rising number of emerging viruses is largely the result of ecological destruction and wildlife trade.

As their natural habitats disappear, animals like rats, bats, and insects survive where larger animals get wiped out. They're able to live alongside human beings and are frequently suspected of being the vectors that can carry new diseases to humans.

Scientists have linked past Ebola outbreaks to heavy human incursion into the rainforest. In one 2017 study, researchers used satellite data to determine that 25 of the 27 Ebola outbreaks located along the limits of the rainforest biome in Central and West Africa between 2001 and 2014 began in places that had experienced deforestation about two years prior. They added that zoonotic Ebola outbreaks appeared in areas where human population density was high and where the virus has favorable conditions, but that the relative importance of forest loss is partially independent of these factors.

A multidisciplinary group of scientists based across the US, China, Kenya and Brazil has calculated that a global investment of $30 billion a year into projects to protect rainforests, halt the wildlife trade and farming would be enough to offset the cost of preventing future pandemics.

"If you go in the forest ... you will change the ecology; and insects and rats will leave this place and come to the villages ... so this is the transmission of the virus, of the new pathogens," Muyembe said.

… And in most of the scientific publications there is an assumption that there will be more contagions coming as humans continue to destroy wilderness habitats. It's not an "IF" it's a "WHEN".

The solution is clear. Protect the forests to protect humanity -- because Mother Nature has deadly weapons in her armory.

More pleas to protect the world’s forests as clearing gathers pace:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/12/companies-must-account-for-quality-not-just-quantity-when-it-comes-to-forests-commentary/

The launch of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) in 2014, with the support of nearly 200 corporate, government, NGO and Indigenous peoples and local community endorsers, put forests at the forefront of climate action and sustainable development. The launch event triggered a flurry of corporate pledges to tackle deforestation in company supply chains. However, as a recent assessment of NYDF progress has shown, large swaths of intact forests continue to be converted for consumer products with significant consequences for the climate, local ecosystem services, and biodiversity. When it comes to forests, companies need to consider not only the quantity of hectares of forest cover but also the quality of natural forest areas left standing.

Commodity supply chains, especially for soy, palm oil, beef and timber, continue to drive forest loss which is associated with five percent of all global emissions. Of particularly grave consequence for our climate is the loss of intact forests, large, unbroken swaths of primary forests that are free of significant anthropogenic damage. Intact mangrove forests, tropical forests and forested peatlands sequester more carbon than any other type of forest. Intact forests in particular account for nearly one-third of all carbon stored in trees and absorb one-fifth of human-caused emissions every year, despite making up just 13% of the world’s total forest area.

While about half of the world’s humid tropical forests can still be considered of “high quality,” less than a quarter of forests worldwide are considered intact. However, only 6.5% of these high quality, intact tropical forests are formally protected, putting them at significant risk of being lost, according to a recent study. By one estimate, intact forests are being damaged at twice the rate of forests overall, including from logging and land clearance for industrial agriculture.

Because protecting intact forests has a climate impact six times greater than previously thought, some researchers wonder whether the financial incentive to preserve them, and the penalties for destroying them, should be substantially higher.

In addition to the forest’s role in storing carbon, companies need to consider the vital role intact forests play in other sustainable development goals. These forest areas are key to local, national and regional water security…. Natural forest areas are also key to maintaining the world’s biodiversity – about 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests.

https://www.earth.com/news/earths-forests-are-threatened-by-drought-and-human-development/

In a new study from the University of Copenhagen, a team of experts has identified major trends that will impact the world’s forests in the coming years. These trends include drought, human development, and viral outbreaks.

“It is critical for all countries – especially those with poor economic conditions, to prioritize forests and have forest conservation plans. Without the adoption of conservation strategies, droughts and viral outbreaks could have severe consequences on forests and humans alike,” said Professor Rasmussen.

The study is published in the journal Nature Plants.

https://www.miragenews.com/droughts-viruses-and-road-networks-trends-that-will-impact-our-forests/

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/12/worlds-forest-intact-new-data-study-finds

  • Of the world’s remaining forests, only 40% have high ecological integrity, according to data from a newly developed index.
  • Ecological integrity is a measure of human impact, looking at factors from infrastructure to tree-cover loss.
  • High-integrity forests are found mostly in Canada, Russia, the Amazon, Central Africa, and New Guinea; of the remaining high-integrity forests, only 27% are currently in nationally designated protected areas.
  • Conserving forests is a critical part of achieving the international Sustainable Development Goals, and understanding where high-quality, intact forests remain may inform conservation planning.

Forest Bathing growing:

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20201231/get-out-nature-is-the-fix-for-covid-19-stress

Like Stafford, millions of other Americans trying to cope with the pandemic and its restrictions have discovered -- or rediscovered -- the power of the outdoors and nature to ease stress.

Among the indications of that trend:

  • Sales of outdoor gear and sports equipment are up. Visits to many national parks are breaking records. Yellowstone had the busiest October on record, with visits up 110% over last October, according to park statistics. (As of mid-November, overall visits are down 6% from the same period last year, but the park had to close due to COVID-19 in March, not reopening until June.)
  • Bookings for the nature experience known as forest bathing or forest therapy, which means ''taking in the forest," were already popular but are on the rise.
  • Doctors who launched walking groups, such as Walk with a Doc, have tweaked the sessions so they can continue virtually if necessary.

Research backing up the benefits of connecting with nature just keeps accumulating. "We call it ‘vitamin N,’" says John Norcross, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and author of Leaving It at the Office, a book on self-care for psychologists in its second edition. For increasing well-being, he says, ''we tell people that vitamin N is [spending] 30 minutes in nature." While many equate nature with forests or something else green, Norcross says some research also suggests that aquatic environments provide the same benefits.

Two hours a week boosts health: Researchers from the University of Exeter in the U.K. conclude that spending at least 120 minutes weekly in nature is linked with good health and well-being. They evaluated the patterns of nearly 20,000 people responding to a survey who reported their well-being, health, and contact with nature.

They found that 120 minutes was the sweet spot, with positive associations peaking between 200 and 300 minutes a week, with no further gain in health or well-being after that.

Short walk, better mood: When 60 adults walked for 15 minutes in a bamboo forest, their mood improved more than when they walked 15 minutes in a city environment.

Stress dissolver: Forest bathing lowers levels of cortisol, a marker of stress, according to a review of 30 published studies.

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, in his 2014 bestselling book, Blue Mind, lays out how ''being near, in, on or under water" can improve health and happiness, among other benefits.


Forest Media 18 December 2020

Bushfire recovery is still a major issue. WWF report that 5 years after a fire in WA that quoka populations have recovered to about half of what they were. On Kangaroo Island 8,500 Koalas survived out of 48,000, while 230 were rescued. Nestboxes are in vogue, but why are hollow bearing trees still being cut down? The Feds have their priorities for bushfire recovery sorted, giving Visy $10 million to upgrade their equipment (and their mill wasn’t affected). Logging of unburnt forests in East Gippsland is for educational purposes.

Australian Koala Foundation have attacked the Feds for wasting time counting Koalas when they should be protecting habitat. Meanwhile Port Macquarie’s Hello Koalas is a platform for the Forestry Corporation PR. The defection of Port Macquarie’s Leslie Williams to the Liberals over Koalas means that the Nationals and Liberals will battle it out in the next election.

Neglect means populations of our threatened plants fell by almost three-quarters between 1995 and 2017. Macadamia integrifolia is thought to have less than 1,000 wild individuals left, with the millions planted comprising just 20 individuals - their pollen swamps their wild relatives.

Queensland’s investment in multi-million-dollar carbon farming projects this year will see up to 1.9 million tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere and 1.8 million hectares of land restored. As temperatures rise tropical trees die younger. In the Amazon it was found that degraded forests are hotter, drier, and more flammable than nearby “healthy” intact forests. In Britain some are advocating focusing on natural regeneration rather than expensive plantings to restore forests. Others are advising not to forget about the importance of soils. Meanwhile China is progressing with expanding their forests to absorb CO2, while protecting native forests.

Dailan

 Bushfire recovery a slow process:

https://www.mandurahmail.com.au/story/7052997/wa-quokkas-face-long-recovery-road-study/?cs=289

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/13/western-australias-quokkas-rebound-but-face-long-road-to-recovery-after-severe-bushfire

A quokka population nearly wiped out by a severe bushfire in Western Australia may take more than a decade to fully recover, research has shown.

When fire in 2015 charred 98,000 hectares of forest near Northcliffe, a small town in the state's southwest, the local quokka population was decimated.

Twelve months on from the blaze, scientists estimated there were only 39 of the small wallabies remaining in the area from an original group of about 600.

That number has now reached approximately 272 …

The WWF-Australia quokka project also found that the creatures had in five years moved more than 50km to recolonise some patches of habitat and had by now reoccupied roughly 60 per cent of their territory.

… Kangaroo Island’s Koalas decimated:

https://www.theislanderonline.com.au/story/7054046/ki-koala-numbers-estimated-down-to-8500-from-48000-before-bushfires/

The survey results support the estimate earlier this year of about 8500 koalas remaining.

This is down from the estimated population of 48,000 before bushfires burnt almost half the Island last summer.

Department for Environment and Water conservation and wildlife director Lisien Loan said the survey of 34 sites found that koala density had not increased in areas that were untouched by the fires.

This supported the initial assumption that the majority of koalas in the fire zone did not survive.

A dedicated group of rescuers, including Kangaroo Island locals, brought in 648 injured koalas from the burned timber plantation and natural scrub to the emergency triage centre at the KI Wildlife Park at Parndana run by Sam and Dana Mitchell.

The good news is that 230 rescue koalas have now been released ….

… temporary homes replace those lost by logging and fire:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-12/non-toxic-nest-boxes-give-homes-bushfire-affected-wildlife/12833618

This year lots of people have been hammer-ready, knocking up makeshift homes for animals that lost their habitats in last summer's fires.

But glues and varnishes used for constructing nest boxes mean that people could be building useful yet unhealthy products.

Conservation entrepreneur David Brook said he put the health of his furry clients first by doing away with toxic building materials.

Mr Brook's Wildbnb nest boxes were chosen as the ideal home for a trial bushfire recovery project on the North Coast of New South Wales.

Made from hoop pine grown in South-East Queensland, Mr Brook said no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or glues were involved in the process.

… Feds priorities for bushfire recovery:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/16/anthony-pratts-visy-wins-10m-from-australias-bushfire-recovery-fund

Australia’s bushfire recovery fund has given $10m to a paper mill owned by one of Australia’s richest men and major political donor, Anthony Pratt, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to a forestry group with links to the Cayman Islands.

The industry assistance stream of the local economic recovery fund has already handed out a staggering $10m to Visy, one of the world’s biggest paper companies owned by Australia’s second richest man, to upgrade its technology to boost productivity at its Tumut mill.

Pratt’s Visy packaging and recycling empire is a multinational giant, with operations spanning across the globe. Last year, Guardian Australia revealed that a key holding company in the business empire had legitimately paid very little tax since 2013 despite reaping profits totalling more than $340m over the same period, according to corporate and tax records.

The fund, administered by the NSW government, has also handed $275,000 to the Snowy Mountains Forests Australia Trust to replace a bridge on Tarcutta Creek and Baga Creek, near Tumut, which will help improve accessibility into plantation areas to enable the harvesting of burnt timber.

The trust trades as Snowy Mountains Forests Pty Ltd, which owns roughly 23,600 hectares of softwood plantation in the region.

Corporate documents show that entity is wholly owned through the Cayman Islands, and is registered to the office of an offshore legal firm, Mourant Governance Services, also in the Cayman Islands.

Educational logging of unburnt forests in East Gippsland:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-12/east-gippsland-logging-fire-damaged-forests/12973870

Environmentalists say a logging school is operating in bushfire-damaged forests in East Gippsland that should be protected.

Publicly-owned forest agency VicForests has allowed an unburnt coupe at Nowa Nowa, four hours east of Melbourne, to be logged by Gippsland TAFE students for training.

Louise Crisp from Gippsland Environment Group …"How can they justify logging in unburnt coupes at all? They are driving species to extinction," she said.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes told ABC Gippsland only salvage logging of burnt forests was taking place in East Gippsland.

"I can assure you that there is no harvesting in East Gippsland occurring at the moment, apart from salvage logging," she said.

The coupe at Nowa Nowa is the second unburnt coupe allocated for TAFE training this year and the latest in a handful of unburnt coupes logged in recent months.

AKF pillory the Feds misdirection on Koalas:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-16/federal-government-koala-census-wasting-time-foundation-says/12974478

Australia's principal koala conservation group says the Federal Government is in denial about the threat to koalas.

The Australian Koala Foundation has accused the Federal Government of wasting time and money in a pointless census project instead of protecting habitat — the one thing that would help the vulnerable marsupial.

"There are about 600 different species of eucalypts in Australia — koalas only feed on about 50 of those," Ms Tzipori said.

"And then, even more so, they only feed on the species that are found in their geographical location, that might only be eight or 10 species."

For that reason, breaking up koala habitat had a devastating effect on the animals.

"There's a real knock-on effect with land clearing and deforestation … they're coming in contact more with roads, and dogs, other domestic pets, and all of that is just one big, massive knock-on effect," she said.

Hello Koalas a PR platform for Forestry Corporation:

https://www.camdencourier.com.au/story/7056705/sculpture-trails-newest-koala-finds-happy-haven-on-school-grounds/

Happy Haven was sponsored by Hello Koalas as a prize for schools participating in the innovative educational project Koala Smart, which was developed in 2019 by Tacking Point Lions Club, in collaboration with Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, NSW Koala Recovery Program and Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail.

Since then, the Koala Smart project has worked with education writers to create classroom-ready content which is now available at no cost to primary and secondary schools who register on the Koala Smart website www.koalasmart.org.au.

…now Kempsey Train Station will have its own home grown Hello Koalas sculpture to entertain and engage with passengers.

Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail has been developing a strong community engagement program with NSW Trains and Forestry NSW over the past two year.

Posters featuring Hello Koalas sculptures are displayed in a number of train stations in NSW to entice people to "Visit NSW Forests".

Koalas spark battle over Port Macquarie:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/15/nationals-will-field-a-candidate-in-port-macquarie-against-sitting-liberal-mp

John Barilaro has announced the National party will run a candidate in the seat of Port Macquarie against the sitting MP, Leslie Williams, who defected to the Liberals during a stoush over koala policy.

The deputy premier was speaking in Port Macquarie on Tuesday, just weeks after the government shelved a land-clearing bill that was put to the parliament as part of a compromise between the Coalition parties.

The Coalition remains divided over the koala state environmental planning policy (Sepp) that nearly split the government three months ago when Barilaro and some of his Nationals colleagues threatened to move to the crossbench.

Threatened Plants disappearing through neglect:

https://theconversation.com/australia-first-research-reveals-staggering-loss-of-threatened-plants-over-20-years-151408?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2016%202020%20-%201812817620&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2016%202020%20-%201812817620+CID_5352cffd8062648c9561b381a686c189&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Australia-first%20research%20reveals%20staggering%20loss%20of%20threatened%20plants%20over%2020%20years

New Australia-first research shows the population sizes of our threatened plants fell by almost three-quarters, on average, between 1995 and 2017. The findings were drawn from Australia’s 2020 Threatened Species Index, which combines data from almost 600 sites.

Australia’s plant species are special - 84% are found nowhere else in the world. The index shows that over about 20 years up to 2017, Australia’s threatened plant populations declined by 72%. This is faster than mammals (which declined by about a third), and birds (which declined by about half). Populations of trees, shrubs, herbs and orchids all suffered roughly similar average declines (65-75%) over the two decades.

Of the 112 species in the index, 68% are critically endangered or endangered and at risk of extinction if left unmanaged. Some 37 plant species have gone extinct since records began, though many others are likely to have been lost before scientists even knew they existed. Land clearing, changed fire regimes, grazing by livestock and feral animals, plant diseases, weeds and climate change are common causes of decline.

A quarter of the species in the threatened plant index are orchids. Orchids make up 17% of plant species listed nationally as threatened, despite comprising just 6% of Australia’s total plant species.

The endangered coloured spider-orchid (Caladenia colorata) is pollinated only by a single thynnine wasp, and relies on a single species of mycorrhizal fungi to germinate in the wild.

Our research found threatened plant populations at managed sites suffered declines of 60% on average, compared to 80% declines at unmanaged sites. This shows that while management is beneficial, it is not preventing overall declines.

… Macadamias threatened by Macadamias:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/12/in-a-nutshell-how-the-macadamia-became-a-vulnerable-species-aoe

But this week the macadamia came to the world’s attention for another reason: Macadamia integrifolia, or the Queensland nut tree, was listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species “on account of its population size, suspected at potentially fewer than 1,000 mature individuals”. Its endangered relative, Macadamia ternifolia, has previously been listed on the IUCN red list of threatened plants, as the four macadamia species indigenous to Australia come under significant environmental pressure.

Dr Catherine Nock …“You can fly over the Northern Rivers of New South Wales and see millions of macadamia trees, but there will only be about 20 individuals because they are clones of each other,” she says.

Denise Bond, ... The rainforests they live in are “exactly the places that humans like to live [and as a result] 80% of macadamia habitat has been cleared in Queensland – and in New South Wales they have cleared around 98%”.

The presence of macadamia orchards poses a threat to the genetic diversity of the wild population, says Nock, because the pollen from the cultivated clones is carried by bees to fertilise nearby wild trees. Young trees are being found in the wild with orchard genetics. “You’ve got a case where you have four fathers and maybe 100 mothers,” says Nock. Over generations this could dramatically reduce the genetic diversity of the wild population.

Carbon farming in Queensland:

https://www.miragenews.com/landmark-carbon-farming-project-to-create-jobs-and-environmental-benefits-across-queensland/

The Palaszczuk Government’s investment in multi-million-dollar carbon farming projects this year will see up to 1.9 million tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere and 1.8 million hectares of land restored. Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the $2.1 million partnership between the Palaszczuk Government, GreenCollar and the Goondicum Pastoral Company was part of the state’s Land Restoration Fund to build the carbon farming industry in Queensland.

The Beef and Conservation for the Future project aims to improve landscape connectivity and condition of habitat for threatened species in the Wide Bay-Burnett Region through avoided land clearing and regeneration of native forest.

CO2 Australia will receive $3.7 million which will go towards the Mungalla Carbon Project, a 16-year collaboration with the government.

Eighteen projects have been secured and are now underway as part of the government’s Land Restoration fund.

Rainforest trees dying younger:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/uol-ctf121120.php

Findings, published today (14 December) in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) show that across the tropics, tree lifespans decrease for temperatures above 25 C.

As temperatures are rising rapidly across large parts of the tropics, tree mortality is likely to accelerate in substantial parts of the tropics, including the Amazon, Pantanal and Atlantic forests with implications for animal habitats, air quality and carbon stocks.

Although tropical rainforests account for only 7% of all land, they are home to about 50% of all animal and plant species, and approximately 50 % of forest carbon stocks on earth. Thus small changes in the functioning of tropical forests can significantly change the atmospheric levels of CO2 - the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas.

Dr Locosselli said: "In the tropics, trees grow, on average, twice as fast as those in cooler regions of the world. But they also have a shorter average lifespan of 186 years, compared to 322 years of trees in other climates. Our analysis suggests that the life-spans in the tropics will likely decrease further still.

More evidence that regrowth forests are more vulnerable:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/12/lasers-reveal-steep-decline-in-ecosystem-function-of-degraded-amazon-forests/

Every year, growing swaths of the Amazon rainforest are degraded by logging, fragmentation, and human-sparked fires. New research using airplane-based laser scanning of trees shows that degraded forests are hotter, drier, and more flammable than nearby “healthy” intact forests. But in periods of drought, intact forests also run out of water and start behaving like degraded ones, researchers reported recently in JGR Biogeosciences.

The degraded segments were 6.5°C (11.7°F) hotter on average than the intact areas. They also were more flammable—a serious concern, said Longo.

The team found that degraded forests absorbed and stored 34 percent less carbon from the atmosphere than their intact counterparts. They also cycled about 35 percent less water between plants and atmosphere.

Researchers were surprised to see that the conditions of degraded and intact forests converged during major droughts.

“Essentially, at some point, the [whole] system runs out of water, and the climate stress is more relevant than the forest structure,” Longo said of the extremely dry periods.

“Another way to look at this is that degraded forests are functioning almost as intact forests hit by extreme drought in typical years,” said Elsa Ordway, an Earth systems scientist at Harvard University, who was not involved in the study. “And that’s really concerning, because there’s been a huge amount of forest degradation across the tropics. The fact that there’s such an impact on these areas on a yearly basis is really important.”

Priority should be to encourage natural regeneration:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/15/restore-uk-woodland-trees-report-rewilding-britain

Allowing trees and woodland to regenerate through the natural dispersal of seeds should become the default way to restore Britain’s forest cover, according to a new report.

Natural regeneration brings the most benefits for biodiversity, is cost-effective and may sequester more carbon than previously thought, argues Rewilding Britain.

“Given sufficient seed sources and suitable site conditions, trees will plant themselves in their millions for free over as large an area of land as we are willing to spare,” said the charity in a new report seeking to galvanise support for natural solutions to help meet the government’s ambitious target to increase Britain’s forest cover by 30,000 hectares annually by 2025.

“Nature is pretty good at doing this itself. Natural regeneration brings multiple potential benefits – you get the right tree in the right place, you don’t get the potential carbon emissions you get with planting on peaty soils and you boost the complexity of the ecosystem, which builds resilience. Natural regeneration also helps species to shift and adapt to climate change. There’s growing evidence that it can sequester more carbon although there isn’t a broad research base yet because natural regeneration is just not on people’s radars.”

… and restore soil carbon:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/tree-planting-slows-climate-heating-%e2%88%92-and-is-costly/

LONDON, 16 December, 2020 − The world can grow out of its climate emergency − but at a price. Enough tree planting around the world could achieve a 10% reduction in carbon emissions − but only if landowners are paid to plant and protect them.

And by 2055, the bill for planting trees to keep global heating from going any higher than the internationally-agreed target of 1.5°C above the average for most of human history could be US$393bn (£297bn) a year.

Grassland restoration, on the other hand, can pay dividends. And since grasslands are home to 40% of the planet’s natural vegetation, the rewards could be substantial, a second study suggests.

The researchers looked at the challenge of avoiding deforestation; of forest management; of stepping up harvest rotation; and of reforestation or afforestation, in 16 regions of the planet.

The scientists also established that tropical rainforest nations would − if they restored or protected the forests of the Amazon, Indonesia and the Congo basin − contribute the largest share, in the race for global mitigation: from 72% to 82%. The southern US, too, could make a significant contribution.

Researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports that they looked at data from a degraded sample of grassland in Kenya − invaded by a Mexican tree species, Prosopis juliflora, a kind of mesquite − to find that 40% of the life-enhancing soil organic carbon had disappeared. Thirty years of a restoration programme replenished soil organic carbon to a depth of a metre at the rate of 1.4% a year.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/ncsu-cop120120.php

https://phys.org/news/2020-12-greenhouse-gas-emission-tropical-deforestation.html

A large part of our uncertainty is related to what is happening in soils as a result of forest conversion to agriculture. Soils store about twice as much carbon as the atmosphere and they are responsible for regulating concentrations of two other important greenhouse gases—nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas about 265 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and methane, which is the second most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT has been working with partners across the CGIAR to increase emissions data availability. In recent months, we published three papers with new primary data from sites across the humid tropics. Two studies looked at the conversion of forests to different types of agriculture on upland soils in Cameroon and on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia; the third study examined forest degradation in a tropical peatland from the unsustainable harvesting of palm fruits in Peru.

The consistent finding across these papers is that the conversion of forest to agriculture and forest degradation slows down the carbon and nitrogen cycles in these landscapes, which affects the flows of greenhouse gases between the biosphere and the atmosphere.

One of the gases we looked at was methane, and this is important because soil removes this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and limits its climate impact. Our study in Cameroon found that conversion of humid forest to cropland reduced this removal by 47%, but conversion to a cacao plantation did not reduce removal. Our study in Sumatra found lower, but still important, removal rates compared to the forest that we observed in Cameroon.

Conversion of forest to rubber and oil palm plantations decreased greenhouse gas removal by soil to near zero.

Methane is increasing in the atmosphere at an accelerated rate. The orders of magnitude of the reduction of the tropical forest methane removals that we observed suggest that deforestation may be contributing between 4% and 9% of this increase.

Forest trends:

https://www.preventionweb.net/news/view/75184

[MANILA] The emergence of COVID-19 and other diseases of animal origin such as Ebola, SARS and HIV indicates that disturbing forests can trigger pandemics, say the authors of a new study, highlighting megatrends shaping the future of forests.

FAO’s State of the World’s Forests Report 2020 says that the majority of new infectious diseases are zoonotic and their emergence may be linked to changes in forest areas, as well as the expansion of human populations into forest areas.

According to the study, the unprecedented exodus of forest communities to urban areas is shaping the future of forests. As examples, the study cites how international migration is helping reforestation in Nepal, changing community forest management institutions in Mexico and driving shifts from subsistence to commodity crop monocultures in the Philippines.

Growing consumption and demand has already seen large-scale, corporate-led land acquisitions for industrial production of cattle, soy and palm oil in South-East Asia, Latin America and Africa. According to the study, during 2001—2015, 27 per cent of forest disturbance was attributed to commodity-driven deforestation.

“Halting and reversing forest loss is increasingly recognised as a means to mitigate the effects of climate change and address biodiversity collapses,” Johan Oldekop,

https://www.conservation.org/blog/climate-action-humanitys-footprint-landmark-forest-support-3-stories-you-may-have-missed

“Five years after the Paris Agreement, in the midst of a devastating pandemic, we have a choice about the economy and the future we want to create,” wrote Raghav in the article. “Our best chance of avoiding climate catastrophe is for everyone — corporations, governments, and communities — to reject complacency and pursue immediate action. Investing in nature is an enormous opportunity to couple commitments with immediate action.” Research led by Conservation International scientist Bronson Griscom found that protecting and restoring tropical forests and mangroves can provide at least 30 percent of the emissions reductions needed to avoid the worst climate scenarios by 2030. 

“More than one million people have chosen to stand up for our forests, nature and the rights and well-being of people who depend on them,” said Herbert Lust, who leads Conservation International’s work in Europe. “This shows that the deforestation linked to the products we consume daily is not invisible to consumers – people want to do better.” Research shows that the consumption of products such as beef, soy, coffee, cocoa and palm oil in the EU is responsible for roughly 10 percent of global deforestation. Experts agree that creating a law that limits the import of products that drive deforestation could help conserve the world’s forests — and the services they provide. 

And this is what China is doing:

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=782417

China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration on Thursday vowed to increase the country's forest coverage rate to 24.1 per cent in the next five years

China's forest carbon reserve has reached 9.2 billion tonnes, representing an increase of over 200 million tonnes on average each year, which is equivalent to a carbon sink of 700 million to 800 million tonnes, according to Liu.

Liu said with the expansion of forest area and the increase of forest stock, forest carbon sinks will gradually increase, helping the country cope with climate change and reach its carbon neutral target.

In 2019, China's forest coverage rose to 22.96 per cent, with the world's largest area of planted trees, according to a National Greening Commission report released earlier this year.

The year witnessed a big rise of forest coverage in China, with the newly planted forests reaching 7.07 million hectares, and all commercial logging in natural forests banned, said the report.


Forest Media 11 December 2019

Western Australian nanas are increasingly sitting down and making tea for forests.

The Black Summer bushfires toll of 3 billion animals affected includes 60,000 Koalas; 40 million possums and gliders; 36 million antechinuses, dunnarts, and other insectivorous marsupials; 5.5 million bettongs, bandicoots, quokkas, and potoroos; 5 million kangaroos and wallabies; 1.1 million wombats and 114,000 echidnas. A few were rescued, some found refuges and a few are being helped, with control of brumbies even mooted. The Victorian EPA have similarly engaged in a losing argument over compounding fire impacts with forestry as NSW. Now half the World Heritage Fraser Island has been burnt, warranting its inclusion with Gondwana Rainforests and Blue Mountains as "significant concern" as climate heating threatens the survival of these world gems.

I haven’t referenced them, though there are a number of studies from north America showing that high intensity wildfires, in part fed by logging regrowth, are increasing in frequency and intensity and altering forests, changing species and threatening to convert many to shrublands and grasslands. Like here, there is talk about thinning out the regrowth, though they need to take the larger trees to make it economic.

There is a legislative battle underway in Federal parliament, with the Greens trying to protect Koala habitat, and the Nationals trying to stop legal challenges to the RFAs.

Heatwaves a threat to birds.

Millions are being spent on fenced enclosures to “rewild” Australia – are these just mega zoos? Port Macquarie’s new “wild” Koala breeding facility, AKA Cowarra State Forest Tourism Precinct, is to be a tourist attraction replete with giant Koalas, tree-top walks and forestry propaganda. Meanwhile there are warnings that as wild Tassie Devils evolve to cope with facial tumour disease, that release of captive raised Devils threatens a resurgence of disease.

There is a glut of timber as the Forestry Corporation salvage log burnt plantations and China refuses to accept export logs and woodchips, though sawmills are crying poor. The push is on for total mechanization of tree planting. The industry has rebranded itself, as they claim that 40% of imported timber being mis-branded is a good outcome.

Young plantations and regrowth increase landslide risk. An assessment of the world’s remnant forests (including mapping) shows 60% have degraded integrity due to logging, fires, hunting, wildlife exploitation and edge effects, and calls for increasing integrity to better withstand climate heating. As concerns about European deforestation grow, the Dutch Government has decided to stop subsidizing biomass power, but not using it.

Be warned, an assessment of the past interglacial in south-eastern Australia, when temperatures were similar to today, found droughts lasted for centuries and millennia, not just decades.

Dailan

Nanas go viral:

https://www.yasstribune.com.au/story/7043264/knitting-nannas-native-forest-campaigners/?cs=6252

They've been dubbed "The Magnificent Seven" - seven grandmas, frustrated by the continued logging of native forests, who set up a blockade in McCorkhill Forest near Nannup.

On September 8, they woke at 3.30am and wrapped up warm. Then the knitting nannas offered tea and muffins to police and forestry workers.

Then more nannas rallied to the cause. Calling themselves Nannas for Native Forests, on September 29 more than 40 of them created a blockade to stop logging in Helms Forest between Nannup and Margaret River.

"At the second blockade we had a couple of women over 90 join us and I think we have nearly 1000 people following us on Facebook now," Peta said.

"We need to stop chopping down these forests now and there is no good reason why we can't," Peta said.

The nannas hope to inspire grandmothers everywhere to take up the cause.

"We need bodies out there, we need voices," Peta said.

"The elders getting out there and speaking for the community is very powerful. We have a powerful voice but we need to use it.

https://www.thesenior.com.au/story/5415902/hags-and-seedy-ladies-perfect-pairing-to-help-save-environment/

https://www.mandurahmail.com.au/story/7044146/nanna-brings-award-winning-environmental-film-to-mandurah/

Nannas for Native Forests are a group of 'Nannas' from Perth to the South West who have joined with Binjareb people in raising awareness of the need to care for country, especially the forests and waterways.

After personally witnessing the destruction with massive machines in the Helm Forest, and seeing the larger story presented by the film Cry of the Forests: A Western Australian Story, Merrilee wanted to bring the film to Mandurah.

https://www.colliemail.com.au/story/7040182/native-forests-lost-in-policy/?cs=1443

Conservation groups have hit out at the WA Government's climate policy stating its "like a like a lung cancer prevention policy that refuses to mention cigarettes."

The policy released last week outlined an investment of $123.3 million to fund a range of initiatives to create a low carbon future and transition to net zero emissions by 2050.

[Ms Beckerling] "To do so the most obvious thing we can do is protect our forests from logging and clearing.

"Protecting native forests from logging has the potential to prevent up to 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted over the next 10 years. This is a massive amount of carbon - the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the roads - and we can do it right now."

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said protecting and restoring native vegetation was a core element of their response to climate change.

"The Western Australian Climate Policy includes a $15 million investment a Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program and actions to leverage the McGowan Government's commitment under Plan for Our Parks, which will increase the size of our conservation estate by more than 20 per cent," he said.

"The policy also includes a range of commitments for native vegetation rehabilitation and offsets which will support habitat restoration and protection of existing vegetation.

[South West MLC Diane Evers] "Scientists are telling us this is a critical decade - we must do better to stop cutting down our native forests, to grow and protect them, maximise carbon draw down and sequestration, and create a better future for WA and future generations."

Wild Things film:

https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2020/12/wild-things-2/

Wild Things: A Year on the Frontline of Environmental Activism is an upcoming 90-minute documentary that follows a new generation of environmental activists who are moving against forces more powerful than themselves and saying, ‘Enough’.

Ingleton hopes that when people watch Wild Things, they will by inspired by the activists in it. She also hopes the documentary will encourage people to try and make a difference.

Bushfire Recovery:

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/new-research-details-black-summer-wildlife-toll-in-the-billions-20201206-p56l1n.html

The 3 billion animals estimated to have been killed, injured or seen their habitat destroyed by the summer fires is now understood to have included 143 million mammals, 181 million birds, 51 million frogs and 2.46 billion reptiles.

The toll includes an estimated 40 million possums and gliders caught in the path of fires; more than 36 million antechinuses, dunnarts, and other insectivorous marsupials; 5.5 million bettongs, bandicoots, quokkas, and potoroos; 5 million kangaroos and wallabies; 1.1 million wombats and 114,000 echidnas.

It is believed 60,000 koalas were killed, injured or lost habitat, with the worst losses on Kangaroo Island where 40,000 were killed or harmed in some way.

About 11,000 koalas were hit in Victoria and 8000 in NSW according to a new report into the impact of the fires on native wildlife, which confirms an earlier overall estimate but provides far more detail about the losses.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/almost-three-billion-native-vertebrates-impacted-by-fires/news-story/49094ef5d8850ee64fbb455c20a28bf9?btr=e81970c3644cd4439021f69c3127e630

The research into how many animals were impacted by the fires was managed by Dr Lily Van Eeden and overseen by Professor Chris Dickman, both from the University of Sydney.

Their recommendations include implementing mapping and monitoring of plants and animals in bioregions most at risk in future fires, and developing strategies to protect these areas during fires.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/07/devastating-more-than-61000-koalas-among-3-billion-animals-affected-by-bushfire-crisis

… surviving Lyrebirds:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-06/photographer-paul-mciver-shows-how-lyrebirds-survive-bushfires/12951204

On a trip to Yarrangobilly Caves in Kosciuszko National Park in late autumn, Mr McIver came across a female lyrebird on the fireground, collecting material for her nest.

"When fire totally devastates a region, your natural predisposition is to think, 'it's all gone'. Just to know that this little one has fledged and gone off into the bush, it lifts your spirit.

"I was shocked at the expanse of the fires, how much habitat was impacted, including wet forests, which is the preferred habitat for female lyrebirds," Ms Austin said.

When she returned to one of her study sites in the Blue Mountains National Park, where fires burnt 80 per cent of the World Heritage-listed forest, she discovered that the lyrebirds she was tracking had escaped the flames.

But despite the extraordinary survival skills of lyrebirds, Ms Austin remains deeply concerned for their ongoing survival in a landscape transformed by hotter, more frequent fires. With the loss of forest vegetation, food resources are scarcer, and the birds are more visible to predators.

Recent research has revealed the vital role lyrebirds play in protecting forests from the build-up of dry fuel that heightens the risk of fires.

As it forages for invertebrates, a lyrebird will turn over 150 tonnes of soil and leaf litter every year.

… helping a few Regent Honeyeater, now they need to stop logging its feed trees:

https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/7039977/emergency-initiatives-activated-to-help-bolster-regent-honeyeater-numbers/

The DPIE Saving Our Species staff and the Regent Honeyeater National Recovery Team convened to determine the potential devastating impacts for Regent Honeyeater earlier this year post the fires.

Key threats identified included loss of potential breeding habitats to fire, impacts in unburnt refuges on breeding from competitor species such as Noisy Miners and subsequent loss or minimal flowering of primary feed trees from a combination of drought and fire impacts.

Hunter Local Land Services supported BirdLife Australia and the Australian National University to conduct urgent Noisy Miner culling in one partially burnt valley in the Upper Hunter.

"There is anecdotal evidence that burnt areas are also 'opened up' post-fire, thus making the habitat more suitable to miners."

Post-fire control of the Noisy Miner commenced during winter to reduce competition in an attempt to boost the honeyeater's population numbers.

… controlling brumbies:

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7042449/alpine-bushfire-rehabilitation-efforts-receive-8m-federal-boost/

The federal government will spend $8 million on long-term recovery and rehabilitation efforts in fragile alpine ecosystems, including efforts to limit the impact of hard-hooved animals after last summer's bushfires.

[Ms Ley] "Feral animals, particularly heavy, hooved animals, pose great threats to our smaller native wildlife which are at constant risk of trampling or having their habitat destroyed by trampling.

"The Australian Alps is unique in our dry, arid country and is recognised as being a world-centre of plant diversity, so it is important that we manage the impact that hard hooved animals have on the environment."

… and another World Heritage site burns:

https://theconversation.com/the-kgari-fraser-island-bushfire-is-causing-catastrophic-damage-what-can-we-expect-when-its-all-over-151664?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%209%202020%20-%201806017547&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%209%202020%20-%201806017547+CID_8dc7c6096ca094e08febe534ce24ac75&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=The%20Kgari-Fraser%20Island%20bushfire%20is%20causing%20catastrophic%20damage%20What%20can%20we%20expect%20when%20its%20all%20over

K’gari (Fraser Island) has been burning for more than seven weeks and, so far, the fires have razed half of the World Heritage-listed island off the coast of Queensland. The devastation will become more pronounced in coming weeks, despite overnight rain.

Much of the commentary on these fires has focused on how these landscapes are “meant to burn”, and that (luckily) there have been no major fires in the fire-sensitive, rainforest-style ecosystems in the island’s centre.

For thousands of years, the Butchulla traditional owners maintained the island’s ecosystems with patch mosaic burning. The general principle behind patch mosaic burning is that by burning regularly and strategically, you create habitat niches that cater for a wide variety of generalist and specialist species, which favours biodiversity.

With an absence of this mode of burning during 130 years of logging on the island (ending in 1991), today’s environmental managers have faced an uphill battle to claw back the balance.

Effectively, only 50% of the island now provides habitat and food sources for the entire island’s wildlife, and the remaining habitat is not always a like-for-like replacement.

When the fires have extinguished and plants begin to regenerate, a sea of green may convince people the ecosystems have bounced back marvellously from the fires. But in actual fact, they may have been irrevocably changed.

https://www.townandcountrymagazine.com.au/story/7046968/bushfire-hit-regions-of-significant-concern-to-world-conservation-union/

As rain brings relief to the fire efforts on the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island it's marked by close parallels to the Black Summer on mainland Australia.

Seventy to 80 per cent of the Blue Mountains world heritage area was burnt by the summer fires, and the concern is that the fires were so fierce the habitat may not return as it should.

Concerns that must be forming around Fraser Island.

Mr Luscombe said the biggest problem of the fires last summer was just how ferocious they were.

"Normally when you have burnt ground you get refuges, you'll have areas that didn't burn that hot or didn't burn at all and that didn't happen this year," he said.

"So much of it was burnt severely and the amount of refuge was really small."

"In the big wilderness areas those rainforest corridors are your main advantage and down in the major river systems, but no, the fire just carried straight through," he said.

For the Gondwana Rainforests the report noted "given the severe nature and extent of the fires even the significant resources and even well-planned and completed hazard reduction burns conducted in the previous autumn and winter season were ineffective.

"The fires dramatically changed the conservation outlook for the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia, and it remains to be seen whether the natural ecosystems and ecological functions are sufficiently resilient to recover from this previously unexperienced perturbation."

Victorian EPA made similar post-fire gestures to NSW, and allowed logging to continue:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/08/vicforests-allowed-to-resume-logging-despite-risk-of-irreversible-damage-in-fire-hit-gippsland

Victoria’s publicly owned forestry agency has been allowed to restart logging in bushfire-ravaged east Gippsland despite a warning from a regulator there was a risk of “serious and irreversible damage” to the state’s biodiversity.

A report released under freedom of information laws show the state’s conservation regulator twice wrote to VicForests during and after last summer’s catastrophic bushfires advising it should apply the “precautionary principle” when logging in the area.

An initial letter in January suggested that logging should be modified “in response to the changed conditions for vulnerable and threatened species across the state”. A follow-up in February said the scale of the damage meant it was justified to stop commercial logging until there was more information that reduced scientific uncertainty about the risk of permanent damage.

Schuringa said there had not been a satisfactory explanation of how this satisfied the precautionary principle, or how the environment department was monitoring logging.

“We aren’t seeing any changes on the ground and there hasn’t really been any indication from the department about what they are doing,” she said.

Birds feeling the heat:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-11/why-do-birds-stop-singing-when-it-gets-too-hot/12952674

Dr Kaplan said when the temperature increased the budgerigars' breathing rate also increased dramatically.

"When it comes to 40 degrees their breathing rate increases sharply — it then doubles — and from then on every single degree doubles the number of breaths the bird has to take," she said.

"So, at 40 degrees it has 100 breaths per minute and at 41 degrees it's 200 breaths per minute. They won't vocalise once it gets to 40 degrees.

"When you get to 46 degrees that's the absolute limit and after that birds really suffer immensely."

"The study found when the temperature reaches 27 degrees, magpies stopped feeding because there is too much energy going into that.

"So, when you get a heatwave that is over 35 or 40 degrees they cannot feed at all and they cannot digest food or anything.

"So, if that lasts for a week, the bird will be out of condition or near death — they can't forage, let alone sing.

"They are actually starving — if the temperature goes to 42 degrees and above and maintains this temperature for a few days, many birds will die."

Federal Greens try it on for Koalas:

https://www.miragenews.com/koalas-and-fraser-island-burned-climate-will-take-australia-s-treasures/

The Australian Greens have warned that the government’s climate inaction is pouring fuel on fires incinerating our country’s iconic animals, landscapes, and flora, amid news that tens of thousands of koalas died during last season’s bushfires, and as an uncontrolled bushfire tears through an untouched world heritage rainforest.

Greens Environment spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young will this week move a ‘Save the Koala Bill’ to protect the habitat of Australia’s most iconic tree-hugger, in a bid to stave off extinction.

“Today Australia is watching one of our national treasures burn. The Fraser Island fire comes on the back of record-breaking temperatures and is a further harbinger of the climate emergency that we face,” Greens Leader, Adam Bandt said.

“The Bill will legislate a moratorium on clearing of critical koala habitat which is absolutely vital to saving the species.

… Federal Nationals try it on against Koalas:

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/legislation-to-provide-clarity-for-native-hardwood-industries/

Legislation will be introduced in Federal Parliament today by Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie that will aim to provide certainty for Australia’s native hardwood timber industries. Source: Timberbiz

Australian Forest Products Association CEO Mr Ross Hampton said Senator McKenzie’s Bill will clarify a legal anomaly created by a Federal Court ruling in May, which has created significant uncertainty for Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) – the national framework that delegates the environmental regulation of Australia’s sustainable native timber forestry operations to the states.

“Senator McKenzie’s Bill will affirm and clarify the Commonwealth’s intent regarding RFAs to make it explicitly clear that forestry operations covered by an RFA are exempt from Part 3 of the EPBC Act.

“As the daughter of a log truck driver and growing up in timber towns in Victoria, Senator McKenzie knows first-hand how vital the industry is for regional communities.

https://www.miragenews.com/senator-mckenzie-stands-up-for-timber-workers-to-deliver-certainty/

https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2020/12/logging-and-swift-parrots/

New federal legislation to allow logging of native forests despite current court rulings of illegality is a rort against the majority of Australians who want the forests and wildlife saved, former Greens leader Bob Brown said today.

“The nation will have all summer to see how Bridget McKenzie’s bill to exempt clearfell destruction of forests from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is no less than the Nationals doing the bidding of the powerful logging industry.

The global extinction crisis should see this bill replaced with one to end all native forest logging as New Zealand did decades ago,” said Bob Brown.

The study by ANU that showed swift parrot numbers were far lower than previous estimates was today described as a, ‘crisis’ by BirdLife Tasmania.

The ANU study suggested that the global population of swift parrots could be as low as 100 – 200 breeding pairs.

“There is a crisis unfolding in our forests” Dr Woehler added. “With other woodland species such as wedge-tailed eagle, grey goshawk and masked owl also listed as Critically Endangered, we also stand to lose these species unless there is a fundamental change in land use and forestry practices in Tasmania.”

Rewilding is where the money is:

https://www.ecovoice.com.au/rewilding-australia-joins-wwf-in-bold-plan-to-regenerate-australia/

WWF-Australia has welcomed the not-for-profit Rewilding Australia into its ranks, as part of its bold Regenerate Australia program to restore degraded landscapes and reverse the decline of native wildlife.

Experts from Rewilding Australia will be part of a dedicated unit within WWF-Australia to deliver major rewilding projects, including the continued reintroduction of eastern quolls to mainland Australia and the return of brush-tailed bettongs to South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula after an absence of more than 100 years.

Rewilding is a conservation method that involves reintroducing lost species to natural environments to restore ecosystems and create more resilient landscapes.

… return of the Numbat to enclosures:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-07/saving-numbats-from-brink-of-global-extinction/12951644

Numbats have not been seen in the New South Wales wild for more than a century and globally they are rarer than the black rhino, their near-extinction caused by feral predators such as foxes and feral cats.

But the precious numbat is hoped to spring back to life in far south-western NSW near Gol Gol, just over the Murray River from Mildura, thanks to a 42-kilometre-long, two-metre-high electrified fence.

The fence establishes a 9,500-hectare feral predator-free safe haven for reintroduced small mammals and marsupials ranging from bilbies, western barred bandicoots, burrowing bettongs, brush-tailed bettongs, red-tailed phascogale, bridled nailtail wallabies, Mitchell's hopping mouse, and western quolls.

The ambitious joint $41.3 million, 10-year project is a partnership between NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) and AWC, constructing three feral predator-free sites in NSW.

Across the three sites, homes have been established for crest-tailed mulgara and bilbies within the Sturt National Park, bridled nailtail wallabies in the Pilliga National Park, and more bilbies and greater stick-nest rats in the Mallee Cliffs National Park.

… the future for Koalas:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-10/koala-breeding-to-feature-at-cowarra-state-forest-precinct/12970838

The nation's next big thing, a Big Koala, is set to be installed in a new tourist attraction unveiled near Port Macquarie on the New South Wales mid-north coast.

The Cowarra State Forest Tourism Precinct will also host a breeding program for wild koalas, run by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

[Margaret Meagher] "The one thing I wanted was to have a Big Koala in a natural environment.

"Standing under this canopy of trees where the Big Koala's going to be, I feel like I've won the lottery."

"Forestry deserves 16 million medals for this. It will not only be a visitor experience, it will be a learning experience about Aboriginal culture, forestry practice, and koala conservation. It's got all the ingredients."

"We're here to help save the threatened species, that's what this project is about," Mr McBryde said.

Wildnets — like trampolines — will be strung among the trees, he said.

"After that you can wind through the treetops, even in a wheelchair or with a stroller, through a narrow ribbon, and that allows people to hover around and look at the koalas close up."

The Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council are partners in the project which will include a cafe run by them, an art gallery, and an amphitheatre for cultural awareness training for schools.

The council will also manage the land through cultural burning.

"It means a lot to us. The beauty of this is that State Forests [Forestry Corporation] approached us, we didn't approach them, which makes it more important, or just as important," CEO Amos Donovon said.

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/7049883/cowarra-forest-tourism-precinct-and-koala-sanctuary-unveiled/

Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams said $2.1 million from the NSW Government's Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism Fund and financial contributions from the project partners will boost tourism in the local region.

"This precinct will be the first ever conservation breeding facility for koalas which will be returned to the wild while creating an iconic tourist destination that highlights the importance of sustainability, renewable resources and the role we can all play in having a low carbon footprint," Ms Ashton said.

Kathy Lyons, senior manager Stewardship Forestry Corporation of NSW said "the precinct will provide the opportunity for locals and visitors to learn about old and new land management practices".

"This will include the use of traditional Aboriginal management practices such as cultural burning in a contemporary setting, and how Forestry Corporation manages state forests for multiple benefits including recreation, conservation and the sustainable production of renewable timber which stores carbon for life," Ms Lyons said.

https://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/7046133/caring-christmas-gift-that-keeps-giving/

Christmas is just around the corner and for those looking for a thoughtful, out-of-the-box present that will support local as well as the plight of an iconic Australian animal, then Port Stephens Koalas has the ideal gift idea for you.

Nine of the marsupials in Port Stephens Koalas' care, many with ongoing medical needs, are available to adopt virtually and symbolically (sorry, you can't take them home with you) as a Christmas gift.

"After the drought, bushfires and mass deforestation along the east coast in the past year alone, it is important to educate the public about the immediate threats to the koala.

… a threat for recovering devils:

https://theconversation.com/tasmanian-devils-look-set-to-conquer-their-own-pandemic-151842?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2011%202020%20-%201808017569&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2011%202020%20-%201808017569+CID_01f3cb2f6f072670ce3f7d184deeafcf&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Tasmanian%20devils%20look%20set%20to%20conquer%20their%20own%20pandemic

In the midst of a human pandemic, we have some good news about a wildlife one: our new research, published today in Science, shows Tasmanian devils are likely to survive despite the infectious cancer that has ravaged their populations.

Devil facial tumour disease, … has led to a decline of at least 80% in the total devil population.

This suggests some sort of steady state has been reached, and the disease and devils are now coexisting.

Finally, and perhaps most encouragingly of all, we have now seen tumours shrink and disappear — something that was unheard of when the disease first emerged. What’s more, we also know this has a strong genetic basis, again suggesting the devils are genetically adapting to their foe.

But meanwhile, our results provide a warning that a strategy of reintroducing captive-reared animals to supplement diseased wild devil populations is likely to be counterproductive.

When devils from populations that have never been exposed to the disease interbreed with wild animals in diseased populations, the evolution we have seen in wild populations is likely to slow down or even reverse, endangering those populations.

What’s more, the slowing rate of disease transmission may be partly a consequence of reduced devil population densities, resulting in fewer bites. Artificially boosting population densities might accelerate disease transmission, the opposite of the intended effect.

Sawmills starving amidst a timber glut:

Australian Forests &Timber News, November 2020

Forestry Corporation of NSW is celebrating an important recovery milestone with two million tonnes of fire-affected timber harvested, hauled and sold from the organisation’s bushfire affected Tumut and Bombala softwood plantations.

But Timber New South Wales is warning that the South Coast is almost closed and that mills are facing huge shortages of hardwood and softwood.

She said the material being harvested was going to chip mills and not for sawlogs.

“Nothing is going into the mills on the south coast,” she said.

“There is a stand-off with Forest Corp and their coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval requirements and then post the bushfires the EPA’s site-specific conditions.

“So they are down to negotiating block by block, and nothing has happened.”

On the north coast of the state the same problem existed.

Ms Mccaskill said the EPA was trying to starve the timber industry out so it financially collapses.

https://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/australian-economy/china-cracks-down-on-more-australian-exports/news-story/3b311f11a0179a5aae2c74b0c3d26e75

China has continued its attack on Australian exports, with its ban on timber now including products from Tasmania and South Australia.

A notice from China’s custom officials claimed pests had been detected in shipments of timber logs from the two Australian states.

… time for rebranding:

https://www.miragenews.com/afpa-launches-new-look-for-a-new-decade-of-advocacy/

In advance of its tenth anniversary, to be celebrated in 2021, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has unveiled a new brand.

The National Association of Forest Industries (NAFI) and the Australian Plantation Products and Paper Industry Council (A3P) united at that time to create AFPA.

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/afpa-gets-a-new-logo-for-its-10th-birthday/

… though branding can be misleading:

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/dna-testing-shows-40-of-imported-timber-incorrectly-labelled/

An Australian first national DNA testing program used to verify the species and origin of imported timber sold at retail outlets has released its first round of results, confirming more than 60% of the species’ labels were accurate. Source: Timberbiz

Mechanizing planting:

https://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/7047728/mechanical-planting-of-forest-trees-has-been-sow-good/?cs=4720

A trial of mechanical forest planting near Nundle in northern NSW may provide a new solution to bushfire recovery planting programs.

Mechanical planting has the potential to reduce the need for site preparation as well as increasing planting rates and extending the planting season, the Forestry Corporation's manager of innovation and research Mike Sutton said.

"Mechanical planting could be a way of addressing the extra workload ahead of us in replanting burnt forests while maintaining a safe workplace for our crews and contractors," he said.

Plantations loose in a landslide:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/123635319/landslide-study-offers-suggestions-for-forest-management-in-tasman

The authors of a new research article, published in the New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science, used gridded rainfall, topography, lithology and land cover surfaces to develop a high-resolution model of the landslides that occurred in a 196 square kilometre area of Tasman District during the time Gita brought heavy rain to the region.

The article says that clear-felled plantation forest, including areas where trees have been replanted for less than eight years, occupies just over 712ha of the study area. However, about 45 per cent of this area has a predicted probability of landslides greater than 75 per cent, indicating clear-felled plantation forest “is much more vulnerable to landslides than other land cover classes and contributes disproportionately to landslide occurrence”.

Regenerating native forest was the predominant land cover and included just over 1266ha that has a predicted probability of landslides greater than 75 per cent.

“Our study indicates [regenerating native forest] is more vulnerable to landslides than tall forest, and is consistent with other studies,” the article says. “Thus, if [regenerating native forest] reverts to tall native forest through natural succession, landslide occurrence in the Tasman region is likely to decrease.”

Forest’s integrity at stake:

https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2020/12/index-reveals-integrity-issues-many-of-worlds-forests

“This extremely fine-scale analysis of the ecological integrity of the world’s forests has found that only 17.4 million square kilometres of Earth’s remaining forests – or 40 per cent of them – are considered to have high integrity,” Professor Watson said.

“And just 27 per cent of this area is found in nationally designated protected areas.

“High integrity forests are those which contain high levels of biodiversity, provide high quality ecosystem services and are more resilient to climate change.

“Many of our remaining forests have been heavily impacted by a variety of human activities, including logging, fires, hunting, wildlife exploitation and edge effects.

“By protecting and expanding forests with high integrity, we can help slow the impacts of climate change, preserve biodiversity, protect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and prevent future pandemics.”

“We show how critical some countries are, including Canada, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea and Australia, in sustaining the world’s last large intact forests.

The study is published in Nature Communications and the index can be accessed at forestlandscapeintegrity.com.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9030343/Less-half-worlds-forests-functioning-naturally-should.html

Biomass deforesting Europe:

https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/12/biomass-for-dutch-power-plants-is-depleting-protected-baltic-forests/

Wood chips imported to the Netherlands from the Baltic states contains timber from protected woodland, investigative new platform Investico has found.

The wood pellets are used by Dutch power plants to produce electricity which is classified as greener than coal or gas-fired power. The Netherlands bought some hundred million pellets last year which, according to the sustainability certificates, are ‘an inevitable by-product’ of woodland management and therefore eligible for subsidies.

However, local environmental organisations say the export of wood pellets is depleting local forests, including those that belong to the protected woodland network Natura 2000.

In a recently published report, the organisations claim that woodland twice the size of Amsterdam is cut down for electricity production in Estonia and Lithuania every year. ‘Intensive forestry has an important negative impact on climate,’ the report said

Dutch biomass plants, which are supposed to help comply with EU climate goals, have been given over €3.5bn in subsidies in the last seven years. They have, however, become deeply controversial because of longer-term damage to the environment.

Critics are saying the government have not included worldwide effects, such as deforestation in the Baltic states, into its calculations. In July the Dutch government’s senior advisory body SER recommended that subsidies for the use of biomass in power stations be phased out quickly, a point the government later agreed on.

https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/10/dutch-to-phase-out-subsidies-for-wood-fired-power-stations/

The government is planning to phase out the use of subsidies for power stations which are powered by biomass, or which generate heat for city heating schemes.

The agreement decision to phase out the use of subsidies was taken at Friday’s cabinet meeting because there are, ministers agree, enough greener alternatives for generating both electricity and heat. This would be on condition the alternatives are both achievable and affordable, economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes has told MPs in a briefing.

The government’s advisory body SER has also recommended that subsidies for biomass power be phased out.

Despite the subsidy decision, the government ‘remains convinced that the use of biomass is necessary in the transition to a climate neutral and circular economy by 2030 and 2050.’

Time for a global forest treaty:

https://www.passblue.com/2020/12/10/a-global-forest-treaty-is-needed-now/

Illegal deforestation has become a defining problem of our time, but its place in global governance remains piecemeal. Just a few months ago, the idea of an international agreement on forests would have been unthinkable because of the spread of climate denialism and nationalist populism. But the winds of geopolitical change have blown open a new opportunity. It is time to create a global treaty to protect forests — one with meaningful involvement from a wide range of parties. And with legal force.

You think this is a drought, this is a drought:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/china-and-australia-face-a-climate-tipping-point/

And that same anthropogenic climate tipping point poses the same threat to great tracts of south-east Australia: water could become more scarce, bush fires could become more frequent, and winds could begin to blow away the parched soils in droughts that could last decades, or even centuries.

The evidence from Australia is based on a much more distant past, and preserved in stalagmites deep in a cave in New South Wales. Researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports that during a warm interval in the last Ice Age, from 129,000 to 116,000 years ago, global temperatures rose to levels much as they are today, and perhaps slightly warmer.

And the record of lower falls of snow, higher temperatures and ever-scarcer water, preserved in the ancient annual growths of underground calcium carbonate, provided the scientists with a hint of what to expect in a world of global heating driven by ever-increasing use of fossil fuels, and ever-greater destruction of natural ecosystems.

“We found that, in the past, a similar amount of warming has been associated with mega-drought conditions all over south-eastern Australia. These drier conditions prevailed for centuries, sometimes for more than 1000 years,” said Hamish McGowan of the University of Queensland, who led the study.


Forest Media 4 December 2020

Reverberations continue over NSW’s allowance of 25m clearing along boundaries and the Commonwealth’s decision to count Koalas while refusing to protect their habitat. The Port Macquarie Koala hospital is to establish a wild Koala breeding facility on State Forest in the midst of the new clearfelling zone – where will they live? There are signs of Koala recovery in south-east South Australia.  

On the south coast they continue to complain about logging of burnt forests. In Victoria an independent Major Event Review is to be undertaken to assess bushfire impacts, while the loggers complain about not being allowed to log burnt forests despite being approved, and the CFMEU is campaigning to over-turn the phase out of logging of public native forests and want something done to stop protests (not theirs).

Meanwhile IUCN upgraded the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef to “critical” condition, and the Blue Mountains and Gondwana Rainforests to “significant concern” because of the fires – with 36% of south-east Queensland rainforests burnt. Climate change was listed as a threat to 69% (11 of 16) of Australian properties. Since then 80% of the Fraser Island World Heritage site has been burnt, and its continuing.

Don’t be fooled by Silky Oak’s old age and glamorous appearance, they are killers. By comparison pythons are recent immigrants, only being here 23 million years. As the campaign against the Dunoon Dam (north of Lismore) intensifies, others are campaigning against a Lower Hunter dam. The clearing of 989 ha of the Piliga for Santo’s gas wells have been approved by the Commonwealth, though Santos is still to decide whether they will proceed. In Tasmania Swift Parrot populations continue to crash, as the moratorium of logging key Tasmanian breeding habitat stands while the court considers its decision on the Bob Brown case. Surprisingly the Feds intervened to stop the clearing of 1840 hectares of oldgrowth forest on Cape York that had been approved by Qld – emphasising the value of the Federal oversight that the Feds are trying to remove.

China’s trade war with Australia has stopped the export of huge volumes of logs and chips to China, creating chaos in the timber industry. God botherers are showing they are bothered by the degradation of god’s creation, though the concerns don’t extend to our chief god botherer who is hell-bent on hastening the apocalypse as Australia is accused of committing climate suicide.

A review finds when it comes to protecting the world’s forests, which are essential to global and national efforts to combat climate change and biodiversity loss, there has been little – if any – progress, while forest health is declining and die-offs occurring at unprecedented scales. Another study found that planting and protecting trees, especially in the tropics, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 6 gigatons a year from 2025 to 2055 (10 percent of the total reduction needed), though would cost as much as $393 billion a year. Protecting American forests for water supply is increasingly being recognised.

While clearing continues, the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility is spending billions of dollars to ‘protect’ millions of hectares of rainforest and other biodiverse biomes. In America publicly funded incentive payment programs for private landholders to sequester additional carbon and provide ecosystem services such as cleaner water and air, and biodiversity protection, are being advocated as an alternative to market-based carbon models. While increasing atmospheric carbon has been found to accelerate tree growth, the trees die younger, offsetting the benefits. Another article discusses the inter-relationships between mother trees and their young, and between species, through mycorrhiza wood-wide webs, commenting ‘The razing of an old-growth forest is not just the destruction of magnificent individual trees — it’s the collapse of an ancient republic whose interspecies covenant of reciprocation and compromise is essential for the survival of Earth as we’ve known it’.

Dailan

Continuing reactions:

https://clarencevalleynews.com.au/nationals-use-bushfire-response-to-further-weaken-land-clearing-controls/

The NSW Government has used its response to the Black Summer bushfires to sneak through new land-clearing laws that will destroy thousands of hectares of forest and woodland. 

The Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill that passed the Legislative Council last week with the support of the ALP will allow landholders to clear 25m-wide strips of bush all around their property without independent environmental assessment or approval. 

“The 25m land-clearing rule won’t reduce bushfire risk in extreme conditions but it will trash thousands of hectares of prime wildlife habitat,”  Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7038952/koala-count-is-futile-conservationists/?cs=14231

More than 20 conservation groups [including NEFA] have blasted the federal government's proposed koala census as a pointless smokescreen in an open letter demanding better habitat protection.

The letter to Environment Minister Sussan Ley sent on Thursday calls for her to instead overturn development approvals on sites with koala habitat and refuse any future applications.

It also asks Ms Ley to apply pressure on the states to halt native forest logging and fund new national parks containing important koala habitat.

"Degradation of koala habitat has increased under your government, and continues right now," the letter reads.

"Koalas cannot wait for a national count to reveal their numbers. They're on a knife-edge now."

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7038952/koala-count-is-futile-conservationists/?cs=7

https://7news.com.au/news/wildlife/koala-count-is-futile-conservationists-c-1695234

https://au.news.yahoo.com/koala-count-futile-conservationists-163019369--spt.html

Recovering Koalas:

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/7037796/partnership-leads-the-way-to-bolster-koala-population/

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital's GoFundMe campaign, initially to buy and distribute wildlife drinking stations, was expanded to include the wild koala breeding program.

The campaign raised $7.9 million.

The breeding facility will be built at Cowarra State Forest on land managed by the Forestry Corporation of NSW.

The aim is to breed koalas with a high level of genetic diversity.

Juvenile koalas will be released into the wild to create new populations and bolster existing populations.

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/7038141/bushfire-donations-fund-koala-breeding/?cs=9676

A breeding facility, which it's hoped will house up to 60 koalas, will be built on land in the Corowa State Forest from bushfire donations.

An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced and up to seven billion trees destroyed or damaged during the bushfires.

Initially koalas will be sourced from the mid north coast only, with the aim of releasing selected offspring back in to the area.

However, Ms Flanagan says the breeding programs alone is not enough to save koalas, when their habitat is disappearing so quickly.

"We've got to ensure these animals that are bred and put back out into the wild are safe because it's just going to be pointless otherwise," she said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-02/the-ambitious-project-to-save-the-koala/12944610?nw=0&pfmredir=sm

Video

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-03/koala-numbers-limestone-coast-buck-national-trend/12919090

A South Australian region is reporting an upswing in koala numbers despite warnings the iconic animal is under threat in some states.

The South Australian Wildlife Department has revealed there are climbing koala numbers in the Limestone Coast, which straddles the Western Victorian border.

"Koalas in the south-east of South Australia are considered part of the greater Victorian population, which occur naturally in the area."

While no specific numbers were available, he said sightings were on the rise and the animal was being reported in new areas where they were not found 20 years ago.

Historically he said koalas were only found in the Limestone Coast, but koalas were released on Kangaroo Island and at the Riverland, Mount Lofty, and Eyre Peninsula.

Controversy over logging of burnt forests continues:

https://www.batemansbaypost.com.au/story/7036246/conservation-groups-brace-for-logging-onslaught/

The bushfire tore through the Shallow Crossing and South Brooman region and Clyde River locals are bracing themselves for an onslaught of logging by NSW Forestry Corporation with 18 forestry areas slated for logging, in burnt forests between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla.

President of the South Brooman State Forest Conservation Group Brian Bennett said the destruction needs to stop.

"We have had enough. Clyde River locals fought fires twice, were flooded out by torrential rain, then bang, from March on, the struggling wildlife that survived in our spotted gum forests has had to survive logging of two compartments logged in South Brooman right next to unburned creeklines," he said.

"Birdlife Australia has called for an end to native forest logging on the South Coast between Ulladulla and Merimbula to protect critically endangered swift parrot feed trees," Mr Bennett said.

"We want the Forestry Corporation out of these forests as 85 per cent of South Coast forests were burnt in the fires and billions of animals killed.

"These forests need to be given time to recover, not further degraded by logging."

… Victoria to review their RFA in light of fires:

https://www.miragenews.com/major-event-review-for-victoria-s-fire-impacted-forests/

A review to determine what actions are required now and into the future to protect, enjoy and use the state’s forests is underway following an agreement between the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments.

The Major Event Review will assess the significant impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires and what remedial action needs to be taken to ensure our forests continue to be managed appropriately.

The Review is a new feature of the updated Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) which can be conducted jointly by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments when a significant environmental event, including a major bushfire, occurs.

The Review is expected to take six months and will assess the impacts of the fires on forest biodiversity and forestry industries, as well as the wider economic, social and cultural impacts.

An independent panel will lead the Review which will be informed by scientific data and research, Traditional Owner knowledge, forest experts and communities.

The Review will support the continued delivery of the Victorian Forestry Plan which is phasing out native timber harvesting by 2030 and provides transitional measures towards a strong and sustainable plantation based industry.

… though Victorian loggers won’t give up:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-03/industry-renews-timber-ban-campaign-in-native-forests/12945742

Forestry workers in Victoria are rallying to fight the State Government's proposed ban on native logging.

From 2024, VicForests will start winding back allocations until a complete ban on logging in native forests is imposed in 2030.

"We spoke to more than 100 workers at the [state-owned] Heyfield timber mill last night as well as representatives from the local council, contractors, sawmill workers and some community representatives and it's about trying to defend the timber industry in Victoria from the government decisions," CFMEU forestry division national secretary Michael O'Connor said.

Mr O'Connor said the State Government's logging ban was ideological, cruel and irresponsible and would put thousands of regional Victorians out of work.

Agriculture minister Jaclyn Symes said the industry had already started transitioning away from native logging.

"The Victorian Forestry Plan provides a clear pathway and strong support for businesses and workers to transition to sustainable plantation timber," Ms Symes said.

But anti-logging protestor Chris Schuringa from the Goongerah Environment Centre said the industry had no-one else to blame for its refusal to transition to plantation timber.

"Really what it's about is investing money, time and energy into furthering the plantation industry because that is where these jobs are and it's important our forests are protected given how intense these bushfires have been and how much has been wiped out," she said.

The Victorian Government has announced grants of up to $500,000 to cover the cost of storing logs burnt in last summer's bushfires.

More than 1.2 million hectares of native forest and 6,400 hectares of pine plantations were burned in Gippsland and the north east.

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/is-jaclyn-symes-withholding-release-of-harvestable-burnt-timber/

The Victorian Government has been accused of deliberately delaying the release of timber burned in the catastrophic January bushfires in north-east Victoria and Gippsland. The burnt timber will be saved from going to waste through a grants program funded by the Federal Government and the Victorian State Government. Source: Timberbiz

But Shadow Minister for Agriculture and for Bushfire Recovery Peter Walsh said that despite calls from industry to release coupes as assessments were finalised through the year, Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes has withheld the release of harvestable timber.

No harvesting of unburnt areas within the fire footprint will take place in 2020, with current salvage harvesting primarily focused on fire-killed ash, fire-killed plantations and other severely burnt forest areas. Salvage occurs within existing harvesting areas and the volumes allocated.

Salvage harvesting is subject to additional environmental regulations, over and above operations in unburnt forests.

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/union-wants-immediate-action-on-forest-protests/

The timber workers union, CFMEU Manufacturing last night participated in a meeting in Healesville where forestry contractors and their crews described the financial pain, physical danger and mental strain of ongoing forest protests and dangerous workplace invasions.

“We are sick and tired of our people being targeted and victimised by forest protesters and workplace invaders and the government doing nothing about it,” National Secretary CFMEU, Manufacturing, Michael O’Connor said.

The meeting heard of contractors being on edge whilst going about their work tasks, not knowing if a tree falling would result in death of severe injury to a protester hiding in the forestry coupe.

Burning our World Heritage forests:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/facing-bushfire-lessons-from-australia-s-ancient-gondwana-forests-20201126-p56ie7.html

Last year, sections of Queensland’s rare Gondwana rainforest burnt for the first time in recorded history in what was a preview of Australia’s horror summer of bushfires.

Twelve months later, scientists are observing for the first time how these ancient rainforests recover and are discovering some of the secrets that had been hidden under their cloud-covered canopies.

“The top of Mt Ballow was free of fire, but it was on the approaches – the eastern aspects of it - that was where they were smashed.

"We stood on the ridge line that was normally covered in beautiful thick forest and it was just sticks out of dust.”

“They never burn. They are cloud forests. That is their design. If they are not getting clouds, they are drying out.”

Mt Barney National Park received only 350mm of rain in 2019, but surprisingly 500mm in February 2020, he said.

Of the 366,500 hectares of Gondwana rainforest in both states, about 60,000 hectares are in south-east Queensland, in Lamington, Springbrook, Mt Barney and Main Range National parks. More than 18,515 hectares were burnt.

In August 2020 the federal government reported on the repair strategy after bushfires burnt 36 per cent of south-east Queensland's rainforests.

https://theconversation.com/severely-threatened-and-deteriorating-global-authority-on-nature-lists-the-great-barrier-reef-as-critical-151275?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%203%202020%20-%201801317494&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%203%202020%20-%201801317494+CID_5abae577af15b3f8daccae53fe6be582&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Severely%20threatened%20and%20deteriorating%20global%20authority%20on%20nature%20lists%20the%20Great%20Barrier%20Reef%20as%20critical

The Great Barrier Reef is now in “critical” condition and the health of four other Australian World Heritage properties has worsened, according to a sobering report just released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

[Blue Mountains and Gondwana Rainforests have been listed as of significant concern]

Climate change is now the most prevalent threat to natural World Heritage sites, and to many cultural sites.

Overall, the report assessed climate change as a high or a very high threat in 83 out of 252 global properties (33%). This rate is double in Australia, with climate change listed as a threat to 69% (11 of 16) of Australian properties.

More frequent and intense bushfires are a problem for the Blue Mountains, Shark Bay, and Gondwana Rainforests. These ancient rainforests, along with Ningaloo and Shark Bay, also face threats of invasive species, diseases and storms.

Management of non-climate stressors is, and will remain, essential to halt the decline of the values of our properties. But Australia must adopt more ambitious climate goals to avoid losing those values that make our heritage places special, preserving them for future generations.

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7039455/world-heritage-areas-face-growing-threat-the-barrington-tops-included/?cs=12&utm_source=website&utm_medium=index&utm_campaign=sidebar

The conservation outlook of the Gondwana rainforests of Australia’s east coast – including the Barrington Tops world heritage area – has deteriorated in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires.

North East Forest Alliance spokesman Dailan Pugh compared the threat of rainforests burning to the bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

“We’re in big trouble,” Mr Pugh said

Ecologist Mark Graham who has studied the Gondwana rainforests for decades, said the burnt areas were not recovering in some places.

If the trajectory continues, Mr. Pugh said our rainforests and half our biodiversity are under threat”.

The World Heritage Outlook report said the most prevalent threats to natural world heritage sites were invasive alien species and climate change”.  

https://www.vice.com/en/article/jgqggp/the-great-barrier-reef-is-now-officially-in-critical-condition

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/great-barrier-reef-climate-crisis-b1765836.html

IUCN Director-General Bruno Oberle said.

“Climate change is wreaking (havoc) on natural World Heritage, from shrinking glaciers to coral bleaching to increasingly frequent and severe fires and droughts.”

Don’t be fooled by their old age and glamorous appearance, they are killers:

https://theconversation.com/silky-oaks-are-older-than-dinosaurs-and-literally-drip-nectar-but-watch-out-for-the-cyanide-148920

Grevilleas have an ancestry older than dinosaurs. They originated on the super-continent Gondwana, and are closely related to banksias, waratahs and proteas.

Like most other grevillea, silky oak possesses proteoid or cluster roots, which are dense and fine. These roots greatly increase the absorbing surface area and allow plants to thrive in nutrient-deprived soils.

But you have to know which species to taste as some, including the silky oak, contain hydrogen cyanide that could make you ill.

Like other grevilleas the silky oak also contains tridecyl resorcinol, which causes an allergic reaction leading to contact dermatitis. The chemical is similar to the toxicodendron in poison ivy.

So when working with silky oaks, you’d be wise to wear gloves, a face mask, protective eye wear (or face shield) and long sleeved clothing. Washing hands and showering at the end of the day is also recommended.

… by comparison pythons are relatively recent immigrants:

https://phys.org/news/2020-12-plots-pythons-history-australia.html

Pythons first arrived in Australia from Asia around 23 million years ago and then adapted to their new home by becoming incredibly diverse, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

"They tend to think of animals like Kangaroos when they think of Australia, but we actually have the biggest diversity of pythons on the planet, in total 15 species."

Those damned dams:

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7031678/conflicting-accounts-of-potential-new-hunter-dams-impacts-on-species/

Contrasting assessments have emerged of how a future Lower Hunter dam would impact sensitive native species.

As an example, the Limeburners Creek study found 28 potentially threatened flora species and seven primary koala feed trees.

By comparison, Hunter Water's recently released 'summary of ecological studies' for the sites lists relatively few potential impacts.

The Healthy Hunter Rivers Group which is fighting to stop the construction of new Hunter dams, says the summaries are deliberately misleading.

"It is inconceivable in the current context that Hunter Water would be considering new dam options that would drown Koala habitat. These dam proposals should be ruled out and Hunter Water directed to focus on water efficiency, recycling and re-use options," Independent MLC Justin Field said.

Piliga go ahead:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/concern-for-wildlife-after-contentious-plan-approved-025349946.html

This is the final in a four-part series, reporting on the community impact of the controversial Narrabri gas project.

Wildlife will face an invasion of feral predators if construction of a coal seam gas project inside a NSW forest goes ahead, conservationists fear.

State and federal government approval has been given for up to 989 hectares of bush to be cleared by energy giant Santos who is currently assessing whether to move forward with a plan to drill 850 gas wells in and around the woodland.

[David Paull] “Fox hunting improves when they have tracks to run along, they rely a lot on tracks and roads and other natural linear features like that.

“So what you’re doing is increasing the predation pressure overall on the whole fauna. Foxes eat everything.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter argues that the government approving what he describes as a “filthy fossil fuel” project sends a worrying message to the world about our commitment to lowering emissions.

“The message that it sends is that the Australian Government doesn't care about the climate emergency, “ he said.

“It doesn't care about our wildlife, doesn't care about our farmers, or the future of the agricultural sector, doesn't care about traditional owners and doesn't care about community,” Mr Ritter said.

In approving the project last week, federal environment minister Sussan Ley added that the region’s biodiversity will be protected by a number of conditions which include clearing limits, impact mitigation and rehabilitation.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/03/hundreds-rally-in-australian-capital-cities-against-the-36bn-narrabri-gas-project

Hundreds of people in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have rallied in support of Aboriginal traditional owners to voice their strong opposition to Santos’s $3.6bn gas project in western New South Wales, which they say will devastate Gamilaraay Gomeroi cultural ties to sacred and significant heritage sites.

While the way is now clear for Santos to proceed, the company has said it will take between 12 and 18 months to decide whether or not to invest in the development.

Public response to the development has been overwhelmingly opposed. The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment received nearly 23,000 submissions. Almost 98% were opposed on a range of grounds, including that it could damage groundwater relied on for agriculture, lead to a loss of pressure in the Great Artesian Basin, affect biodiversity in the Pilliga forest and release substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

Swift Parrots plummet as judgement waited on Tasmanian RFA case:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/parrots-dwindle-court-examines-forests-025112227--spt.html

Researcher Dejan Stojanovic said the parrots were threatened by a range of factors including deforestation.

"This study shows that threats like the severe deforestation of the Tasmanian breeding habitat of swift parrots has drastically reduced their population size and increased the odds that the species will go extinct," he said.

Swift parrot breeding season began this month and STT agreed not to log in the areas where they breed while the court proceedings are underway.

The foundation claims the Tasmanian forest agreement doesn't enforce national environmental protections, including for threatened species, as required by legislation.

It was the intention of the legislation to protect rare and endangered species, Mr Merkel said.

He said protections should be provided against harm being caused, rather than to provide a remedy only after the harm has been done.

The judges have reserved their decision.

https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/7038644/states-forest-pact-disputed-in-court/

The federal court has reserved for decision a court matter which could end native forest logging in Tasmania.

The second claim against its legitimacy related to a 2017 amendment to the act which meant the Tasmanian Government could change policies and practices under its RFA without approval from the federal government.

Mr Merkel argued management of reserve systems and ecological management of forests were not legally binding under Tasmania's RFA.

Why we need the Feds to be able to intervene:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/rejection-of-plan-to-clear-old-growth-forest-shows-why-federal-oversight-must-stay-20201127-p56in9.html

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley's decision to reject a 2014 Newman government ruling allowing old-growth forest to be cleared on Cape York for cattle grazing shows why federal oversight of environmental issues is crucial, the Queensland Conservation Council said.

On November 24, Ms Ley ruled against the clearing of 1840 hectares on Kingvale Station, under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The federal environment department identified 19 species within 10km of the proposed clearing, including the vulnerable red goshawk and the endangered northern quoll, golden shouldered parrot, and Gouldian finch.

Campbell Newman's previous LNP state government approved cattle stockman Scott Harris’ application to clear a further 1840 hectares of bushland near Princess Charlotte Bay on Cape York.

Where would we be without WWF?

https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/wwf-australia-is-preparing-for-year-of-renewal/

During the crises they received $40 million in donations to their Nature Recovery Fund which allowed them to launch 40 separate recovery and restoration missions starting in January of 2020 and which included supporting independent veterinary efforts to take care of injured wildlife with the best equipment, organizing large food dispersions to feed wildlife whose homes were destroyed, and mobilize dogs and drones to search for koalas who had survived the blaze.

Now with the fires behind them, the WWF are looking towards their Two-Billion Tree 10-point plan to regenerate as much forest as was lost, and to help kick off their plan they worked with partners to plant 10,000 koala habitat trees in New South Wales (NSW), as well as getting koalas in eastern Australia designated as an “endangered population” under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Additionally, WWF secured commitments from the NSW government to retain protections of old growth forest and national parks, to which was added the Narriearra Station National Park in June.

China’s logs and chips ban bites hard:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/crisis-looms-in-sea-and-forest-as-china-tightens-export-bans-20201127-p56imw.html

China's recent trade bans on logs and crayfish are causing a crisis in Portland and what is known as the "green triangle" – a cross-border area rich in 340,000 hectares of plantation forests.

No ships carrying softwood logs have sailed from Portland for more than two weeks, leaving tens of thousands of tonnes of logs stacked around the port and in danger of deteriorating to the point they won't find a buyer.

More than $70 million of plantation harvesting and haulage equipment is "parked up" for lack of work, according to the chair of the Green Triangle Forest Contractors Group, Wendy Fennell, who is co-owner of one of the biggest forestry industry and transport companies in the area.

The managing director of Green Triangle Forest Products, Laurie Hein, estimated more than $100 million of log exports were at risk over 12 months, and about $9 million had already been lost.

At least one shipload of about 30,000 tonnes of logs normally leaves Portland, bound for China, every week.

But the bulk carrier Western Maple was forced on November 12 to unload the cargo of logs it had just loaded at Portland after word came through that China would no longer accept Australian timber.

The ban on logs follows a significant fall this year in the export of hardwood woodchips following the COVID pandemic. The port of Portland is the world's largest exporter of hardwood chips, almost all of which go to China and Japan.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-12/victorian-timber-logs-blocked-by-china-after-bark-beetle-found/12875066

It follows China's decision to block a shipment of Queensland timber last month, sending exporters into limbo amid fears more exports will be blocked.

The ABC understands almost 30 consignments from Australia to China in the months up to July, including some with burnt logs from the summer's bushfires, had a bug detected in them.

While there are no bans on timber exports out of Western Australia, timber company Varied has pre-emptively stopped exporting to China for fear it would be rejected at receival points.

God botherers are bothering:

https://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/church-leaders-join-call-for-mps-to-act-now-before/4149938/?cspt=1606863378|ef263d2d4ebaee39999e0c7bec1d4dad

Jason John from the Uniting Church says future generations want our leaders to invest in healthy, life-giving employment which repairs and restores the ecosystems, not prop up industries which accelerate the climate emergency.

"Humans were created to serve and protect God's earth, and to do for others what we would want done for us," Mr John said.

"Jesus calls us to give to whoever asks us, so on behalf of the future I ask our leaders to give them a future - humans and all God's wonderful creatures."

… but not our chief god botherer who is hell-bent on hastening the apocalypse:

https://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/world-awaits-action-by-suicidal-australia-says-former-climate-chief-20201201-p56joj.html

The world is waiting for a "suicidal" Australia to reverse its stance on climate change, says one of the world's most senior diplomats.

[Christiana Figueres]  "I've been pretty vocal about my frustration for so many years of a completely unstable, volatile, unpredictable stand and position on climate change in Australia."

Fiona Reynolds said anyone who failed to accept that climate sustainability had now moved into the mainstream and was being embedded in financial regulations would soon be left behind.

She predicted that the next frontier in investing would be in so-called negative emissions technologies and practices, which reduce the amount of greenhouse gas already in the atmosphere.

Climate solutions based on avoiding deforestation and other "viable near-term opportunities" in removing carbon could generate $US800 billion in revenues by 2050 and assets valued at well over $US1.2 trillion, more than the current value of the major oil and gas companies.

Saving or damning the world’s forests:

https://news.trust.org/item/20201130162103-4iwc7

The fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement offers a moment to reflect on progress towards global climate goals. When it comes to protecting the world’s forests, which are essential to global and national efforts to combat climate change and biodiversity loss, there has been little – if any – progress.

A new study released this week that we co-authored, alongside 22 other experts in the field, identifies five mega-trends affecting forests and forest communities. We believe that these trends are poorly understood and are likely to have major consequences for forests and forest livelihoods over the coming decade.

  1. Forest mega-disturbances

Droughts and excessive rains are increasing forests’ susceptibility to diseases and human-induced wildfires and floods. These are affecting forest health and die-offs at unprecedented scales, and there is increasing evidence that the degradation of forests can result in the emergence of zoonotic diseases with the ability to spread globally…

  1. Changing rural demographics

Increased rural to urban migration – primarily of working-aged men – is causing a mass exodus among forest-reliant communities. … On the one hand, the rural exodus can lead to reforestation as people cease to use land for agriculture. On the other, greater demand for beef and soy in growing cities could also lead to increases in deforestation.

  1. The rise of the middle-class in low-and middle-income countries

By 2030 the middle class in low-and middle- income countries will grow to an estimated 4.9 billion people, amounting to around 50% of the global population. The growth in demand driven by the new middle classes will increase pressure on land and other resources for the production of cattle, soy and palm oil. Already, between 2001-2015, 27% of forest disturbance was attributed to commodity-driven deforestation.

  1. Increased availability, access and use of digital technologies

Technologies that collect, compile and disseminate forest data are increasingly accurate, sophisticated and easy-to-use, including near real-time satellite data to monitor deforestation. …

  1. Large-scale infrastructure development

Large-scale infrastructure initiatives, such as China’s Belt and Road projects, are likely to have transformational impacts on forests and rural communities.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201201124117.htm

… and why we need to change our ways:

https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/osu-tch120120.php

The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, found that planting and protecting trees, especially in the tropics, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 6 gigatons a year from 2025 to 2055. That reduction, the researchers' economic model showed, would cost as much as $393 billion a year over the same time period.

"There is a significant amount of carbon that can be sequestered through forests, but these costs aren't zero," said Brent Sohngen, co-author of the study and a professor of environmental economics at The Ohio State University.

A 6-gigaton reduction by 2055 would amount to about 10 percent of the total reduction needed to keep the climate from warming beyond 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius

A number of recent studies have suggested that tree planting, management and conservation can solve a significant share of the world's climate problem, but most studies have ignored the costs.

The researchers found that protecting existing forests is cheaper than planting new ones, and that forest management, including changing how and when trees are harvested, provides low-cost options to store carbon in regions where timber management is an important economic activity.

"What we see is that you should devote about a third of your effort to this stuff and two-thirds to the other stuff - to reducing coal, to investing in solar, to switching to electric," Sohngen said. "If you want your total mitigation to be as cheap as possible, that's what you would do."

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/ncsu-cop120120.php

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2261277-saving-forests-to-fight-climate-change-will-cost-393-billion-annually/

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19578-z

https://www.climatechangenews.com/2020/12/01/carbon-securing-clean-water-protecting-forests/

One 2017 study found that natural climate solutions, including forest restoration and preservation, could provide over one-third of the climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilise warming to below 2°C.

The data on water quality is just as impressive: one recent study of global sourcewater protection efforts demonstrated that 81% of cities studied could meaningfully reduce water pollution simply through protecting forests and pasturelands.

Forests in particular, as well as healthy agricultural lands, are nature’s filters, keeping water clean for natural and human communities.

Today, 15 million people drink water from the Delaware river system … The most recent estimates suggest that securing clean water throughout the basin will require permanent protection of a minimum of 350,000 additional acres of forest, primarily in headwaters and riparian corridors, at a cost of about $1.75 billion.

That expense, however, is very likely to be recouped by savings in water treatment costs, as well as in climate benefits and compliance with regional and national carbon sequestration goals.

New York City’s massive investment in its Catskills forests is an example of the kind of approach that can catalyse big dollars for big forest protection. Driven by its pressing need for clean drinking water, the city has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in forest protection.

Taking with one hand, giving with the other:

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1366144/indonesia-world-bank-strike-deal-on-emissions-reduction

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry and the World Bank signed a deal on Friday on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), which provides an additional opportunity for the government to receive payments in exchange for reducing carbon emissions

Under the agreement, Indonesia will be eligible to receive up to US$ 110 million for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation until 2025.

The emissions reduction program aims to protect 12.7 million hectares of rainforest and other biodiverse biomes in East Kalimantan, which is home to about 3.5 million people.

The agreement is expected to improve land management and provide local jobs, in addition to protecting the habitats of vulnerable and endangered species. It also seeks to improve the issuance of forestry permits, encourage small-scale plantations and promote community planning for forest areas.

“Indonesia has committed to reducing 41 percent of its greenhouse emissions by 2030

https://en.nhandan.org.vn/scitech/item/9346902-new-resources-for-forest-protection.html

The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility pledged to purchase 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions … at US$ 51.5 million in total, via the Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) in the 2018-2024 period, which was recently signed between the World Bank (WB) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) is a global partnership of governments, businesses, civil society, and Indigenous Peoples' organisations focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, forest carbon stock conservation, the sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries, activities commonly referred to as REDD+.

Since its launched in 2008, the FCPF has worked with 47 developing countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, along with 17 donors that have made contributions and commitments totalling US$1.3 billion.

The resources from the FCPF provide new opportunities to conserve and regenerate forest landscapes and biodiversity while simultaneously supporting sustainable economic growth, which is critical for Vietnam’s development going forward.

“Vietnam has shown tremendous leadership in developing robust programs to deliver forest emission reductions on a large scale,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam.

The agreement will help to increase the existing forest area and improve the forest coverage in the north central region; support forest restoration, and mitigate impacts of climate change.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55130304

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has surged to its highest level since 2008, the country's space agency (Inpe) reports.

A total of 11,088 sq km (4,281 sq miles) of rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020. This is a 9.5% increase from the previous year.

… another approach:

https://www.sightline.org/2020/12/03/family-forest-owners-could-champion-carbon-drawdown/

Across the United States, family forest owners (which the US Forest Service defines as private, individual or family owners), manage a full third of all forests

Together, these landowners control one of the country’s biggest opportunities for carbon drawdown. 

Family forest owners are ideal champions for ecological, climate-smart forest management as the majority of these landowners consistently cite values like recreation, wildlife, aesthetics, and family legacy as primary drivers of their management decisions. These values open many family forest owners to alternatives to industrial-style forest management, which can degrade their forests’ aesthetic and ecological value. 

Although carbon markets could offer a way to close the financial gap between production and ecological forest management by paying for the additional carbon stored in climate-smart forests, they currently don’t serve many family forest owners well. The persistently low market price of carbon, coupled with complex and expensive project development protocols and long contracts, make offset projects unappealing to many family forest owners.

Publicly funded incentive payment programs offer an alternative to the market-based model. If explicitly focused on carbon, these programs could sever the direct ton-to-ton linkage between polluters and forest carbon storage, and pay forest owners to adopt practices proven to sequester additional carbon and provide ecosystem services such as cleaner water and air. Incentive programs would give these landowners a means of monetizing the ecosystem services they provide without the lengthy and expensive inventory and monitoring required by offset markets. 

… Landowners who choose to participate commit to adopting best practices for conservation, water and air quality, soil health, or ecosystem protection. In return, they receive payments, which vary by program and estimated environmental benefits. 

Programs could scale payments based on carbon sequestration estimates from COMET-Farm, the USDA’s recently developed open-source tool for land-based carbon flows. Projects that offer bundles of ecosystem services, like water quality and wildlife habitat protection, could receive additional subsidies and priority. 

Though COMET’s carbon estimates can’t be used to issue offsets, they may be accurate enough to count toward jurisdictional emission reduction goals.

The quick and the dead:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/fda-tld120320.php

Accelerating tree growth in recent years has been accompanied by a reduction in tree lifespan, which could eventually neutralize part of the increase in net uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2). This trade-off between tree growth and life expectancy applies to forests worldwide, including in the Amazon and other tropical regions, as well as temperate regions and the Arctic.

These are the key points discussed in an article published in Nature Communications.

"There's an inverse relationship between tree growth and longevity," Locosselli told Agência FAPESP. "We consistently show that this relationship exists regardless of species and location. If trees are growing faster, they're also assimilating carbon faster. The problem is that they'll live shorter lives and the carbon will be stored for less time."

For forests sake, save the mothers to look after the kids:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/02/magazine/tree-communication-mycorrhiza.html

Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizas: Threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis. Research had demonstrated that mycorrhizas also connected plants to one another and that these associations might be ecologically important … Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. … By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors.

In May, Knopf will publish Simard’s own book, “Finding the Mother Tree,” a vivid and compelling memoir of her lifelong quest to prove that “the forest was more than just a collection of trees.”

An old-growth forest is neither an assemblage of stoic organisms tolerating one another’s presence nor a merciless battle royale: It’s a vast, ancient and intricate society. There is conflict in a forest, but there is also negotiation, reciprocity and perhaps even selflessness. The trees, understory plants, fungi and microbes in a forest are so thoroughly connected, communicative and codependent that some scientists have described them as superorganisms. Recent research suggests that mycorrhizal networks also perfuse prairies, grasslands, chaparral and Arctic tundra — essentially everywhere there is life on land. Together, these symbiotic partners knit Earth’s soils into nearly contiguous living networks of unfathomable scale and complexity.

Simard explained that trees sense nearby plants and animals and alter their behavior accordingly: The gnashing mandibles of an insect might prompt the production of chemical defenses, for example. Some studies have even suggested that plant roots grow toward the sound of running water and that certain flowering plants sweeten their nectar when they detect a bee’s wing beats. “Trees perceive lots of things,” Simard said. “So why not us, too?”

Most trees were generalists, forming symbioses with dozens to hundreds of fungal species. In one study of six Douglas fir stands measuring about 10,000 square feet each, almost all the trees were connected underground by no more than three degrees of separation; one especially large and old tree was linked to 47 other trees and projected to be connected to at least 250 more; and seedlings that had full access to the fungal network were 26 percent more likely to survive than those that did not.

Depending on the species involved, mycorrhizas supplied trees and other plants with up to 40 percent of the nitrogen they received from the environment and as much as 50 percent of the water they needed to survive. Below ground, trees traded between 10 and 40 percent of the carbon stored in their roots. When Douglas fir seedlings were stripped of their leaves and thus likely to die, they transferred stress signals and a substantial sum of carbon to nearby ponderosa pine, which subsequently accelerated their production of defensive enzymes.

She calls the oldest, largest and most interconnected trees in a forest “mother trees” — a phrase meant to evoke their capacity to nurture those around them, even when they aren’t literally their parents. In her book, she compares mycorrhizal networks to the human brain. And she has spoken openly of her spiritual connection to forests.

Kiers is one of several scientists whose recent studies have found that plants and symbiotic fungi reward and punish each other with what are essentially trade deals and embargoes, and that mycorrhizal networks can increase conflict among plants. In some experiments, fungi have withheld nutrients from stingy plants and strategically diverted phosphorous to resource-poor areas where they can demand high fees from desperate plants.

The razing of an old-growth forest is not just the destruction of magnificent individual trees — it’s the collapse of an ancient republic whose interspecies covenant of reciprocation and compromise is essential for the survival of Earth as we’ve known it.

When a seed germinates in an old-growth forest, it immediately taps into an extensive underground community of interspecies partnerships. Uniform plantations of young trees planted after a clear-cut are bereft of ancient roots and their symbiotic fungi. The trees in these surrogate forests are much more vulnerable to disease and death because, despite one another’s company, they have been orphaned. Simard thinks that retaining some mother trees, which have the most robust and diverse mycorrhizal networks, will substantially improve the health and survival of future seedlings — both those planted by foresters and those that germinate on their own.


Forest Media 27 November 2020

The fallout from Catherine Cusack using her casting vote to refer the Koala killing bill to the Koala committee for review continues. While the Government continues to find another way of allowing logging in core Koala habitat and environmental zones, the committee review will proceed despite the bill being dropped. Meanwhile, while still failing to prepare the long overdue Koala recovery plan and still intending to gut the EPBC Act, the Feds are throwing money around, with $2 million for a census, $2 million for koala health research and $14 million for habitat restoration. A landowner has offered a $50,000 reward to find out who logged Koala habitat on his property. There are unconfirmed reports that NRC will review logging rules for burnt forests - given their siding with FC against EPA over CIFOA rules this is unlikely to be good.

As droughts intensify and we continue to divert streamflows, while degrading waters and riparian vegetation, endangering the survival of the iconic platypus. And we have only learnt that platypus, wombats, bilbies and a variety of nocturnal mammals glow in the dark. The super spreaders are a growing threat to us, as if flying foxes and cats weren’t bad enough, now its our beautiful parrots accused of passing on their diseases to us, and those endangered ones eat our food  – all the more reason to leave them some bush homes (not cats).

As Europe wrestles with American forests being fed into their incinerators to displace genuine renewable energy, the mothballed Redbank power station in the Hunter valley is intended to be rebooted with 1 million tonnes of NSW’s forests, starting from the middle of next year. As temperature records tumble, fires intensify and spread, ecosystems collapse (including Lebanon’s famous cedars), and pests proliferate, the commissioning of one of the world’s 10 largest biomass plants pumping 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere each year makes a mockery of NSW’s lauded renewable energy revolution.

Dailan

The aftermath of the last battle in the Koala wars reverberates:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/a-state-of-disarray-as-koala-war-continues-to-rage-20201120-p56gik.html

That protecting koalas could twice throw the NSW government into disarray has to go down as one of the most bizarre and unpredictable political events of 2020.

Round two of the so-called koala wars between the Liberals and Nationals erupted this past week without the public bluster and brinkmanship of the September outbreak but the consequences in terms of deepening enmity and mistrust between the coalition parties could be just as grave.

Hints that the Nationals weren't done surfaced in October when the party - sans the absent Barilaro - demanded in cabinet that farmers be given the right to clear 50-metre fire breaks on their properties and that Environment Minister Matt Kean be instructed to do the same on the periphery of national parks.

Eager to avert another breakdown, Berejiklian barely spoke in what one colleague described as a "trainwreck" session, and agreed on a compromise of a 25 metre fire break for private land.

The clearing rate passed into law this week following amendments to the Rural Fires Act.

"The old SEPP 44 was a pretty weak instrument and the updates were still pretty weak," Walmsley says. Among the limitations identified by the EDO, was that farmers could still apply and get approval to bulldoze their woodlands by applying under the state's land-clearing laws.

Lands would also not be rezoned under the updated SEPP and it was voluntary for councils to create their own koala plan of management (KPoMs) and only a handful had.

Still, in Stokes's view, the new SEPP was a marked improvement on the past forcing would-be developers to at least go through a modicum of assessment before the bulldozers could start to move in.

Charged by cabinet to make amendments to the Local Land Services Act (LLS), Marshall had inserted provisions that were not authorised, as the Herald reported earlier this week .

The new law nullified the key environmental and coastal planning policies, effectively creating a parallel planning system for the state.

Stokes is understood to have been appalled and told close associates his position would be made untenable if the changes were allowed to stick.

"It was the most shocking thing," says Kelly, adding the Nationals appeared to have made "a massive power grab...it was an attack on local government".

And in a twist that may not be the final one, the government's fixes to its own faulty bill were never tabled so upper house MPs still don't know just what bullet had been dodged.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/stokes-vows-to-strengthen-koala-protection-predicts-fraught-talks-20201120-p56gjs.html

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes says he remains determined to tighten koala protections despite being ordered by Premier Gladys Berejiklian to reverse years of work after the latest political flare-up with the Nationals.

"[My party] will be putting forward a koala strategy in the new year and will consider stewardship type payments to landholders to help preserve genuine core koala habitat," Mr Barilaro said. Such an approach could draw wider support, including from the Greens.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/time-to-act-premier-our-koalas-and-farmers-deserve-better-20201120-p56gjq.html

Sorry, what, Premier?

And what, pray tell, do our koalas deserve, Premier? Who speaks up for them? Premier, as you know better than most, for 240 years since colonisation this continent has wiped out habitat after habitat, eco-system after eco-system, species after species. In recent years – even as the consequences of environmental devastation have been realised – the ongoing land-clearing has been justified on the reckoning that we just need a few more developments, a few more swathes of trees gone, another election or two won, and then we can stop. But we are getting near the end of the line. If it is not our generation that stops the endless clearing to protect the koalas and other species, which generation is it? If it is not a Premier with your smarts and former reputation for integrity that will stand up for what you know is right, then which one? For you know how bad this legislation is! When two-thirds of NSW koalas live on private property, you seriously want to defend legislation that allows owners to wipe them out at will? But you still backed down anyway to John Barilaro who refers to koalas as “tree rats” and put out a press release with him blathering about how the farmers deserve better.

[Cusack] I live on NSW North Coast, and our whole community is in uproar and distress. The councils up here asked for greater power to protect habitat and the bill removes them.”

That bill is a disgrace, and you know it, Premier. This time Ms Cusack has stopped it, but it needs more Libs and Nats of integrity to also speak out and say what needs to be said, to support her – or at least kill it off in the back rooms. We are looking at you, Rob Stokes and Matt Kean for starters.

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/premier-gladys-berejiklian-sacks-hunter-mlc-catherine-cusack-over-koala-policy-61804

https://clarencevalleynews.com.au/koala-bill-revisited-premier-sacks-cusack-for-crossing-the-floor/

“The Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2020 is a vast improvement on what was proposed initially, and a win not, just for the Nationals, but also for farmers, the timber industry and indeed koalas,” Mr Gulaptis said at the time.

https://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/7026282/mps-sacking-wins-applause/

The Nature Conservation Council has also applauded the principled decision by Ms Cusack in blocking the bill. "It is far better to go back to the drawing board on koala laws than to accept the Nationals' koala-killing bill," said chief executive Chris Gambian.

Northern Rivers Times 26/11/2020

The scrapping of the controversial koala bill has been welcomed by the North East Forest Alliance.

"While Premier Gladys Berejiklian claimed to stand strong, she effectively capitulated to the National's demands by narrowing the definition of core Koala habitat in the Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to make it harder to identify core Koala habitat, and then gave the Nationals free reign to make dramatic changes to the Local Land Services Act” NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

"Not only did the Nationals seek to remove the prohibitions on logging and broadscale clearing of core Koala habitat, their bill also tried to stop Councils from being able to include core Koala habitat in environment protection zones, and tried to prohibit Councils from being able to regulate logging and clearing in environmental zones.

"Catherine Cusack has shown that she has enough integrity to stand up against National Party bullying for the survival of Koalas by moving to refer this bill back to the Koala committee. She is the saviour for the 67% of Koalas that live on private lands" Mr. Pugh said.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/editorial-koala-konscience/

As expected, locally-based Nationals Northern NSW parliamentary secretary MLC, Ben Franklin, voted in favour of the bill.

[Cusack] ‘I tried for the Blackhall Range koala community. I lost faith in federal protections in the process, so I am fully aware that there is no federal backstop if this bill passes today.

It’s not often a politician speaks truth like this, especially one from the Liberal Party.

It results in weak actors who are actively betraying our interests. They practise the dark art of telling the public one thing, while doing the exact opposite. And standing up for what is right is never popular within the heavily fortified political tent.

Thanks Catherine Cusack, for doing the right thing.

The Feds step up to identify, but not protect, Koala habitat:

https://minister.awe.gov.au/ley/media-releases/18-million-koala-package-include-landmark-census

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/line-in-the-sand-koala-census-to-identify-key-habitat-for-protection-20201122-p56gug.html

A new koala protection policy to be launched on Monday by federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley may put the Morrison government on a collision course with state leaders and project developers.

The centrepiece of Ms Ley’s policy is a population census to identify key habitat areas in koalas' range across Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

The $18 million policy, is funded by $2 million for the census incorporating institutional research and citizen science to establish a “baseline” population data, $2 million for koala health research and $14 million for habitat restoration.

Annual reporting on populations and conservation strategies will be mandatory at national environment ministerial meetings.

The “baseline data” from Ms Ley’s census could act as a backstop against state governments if there are moves to weaken habitat protection - which could clash with state governments planning regimes that have primary control of approvals for urban development and agricultural land clearing.

https://www.2gb.com/koala-count-to-help-preserve-habitats-across-the-country/

[Ben Fordham interview with Susan Ley]

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-11/23/c_139537021.htm

https://menafn.com/1101168736/Australia-announces-national-approach-to-koala-conservation&source=27

"I don't think there's been enough national leadership on this iconic species before," she added.

The data collected in the initial census will be used by the government to prevent state and territory governments from weakening habitat protection, potentially putting the federal government on a collision course with state planning regimes for agricultural land clearing and urban development.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/greens-and-labor-hit-out-at-federal-koala-census-funding/news-story/32df789bc28c7697f59ebd49797bef85

But Greens environment spokeswoman Senator Hanson-Young said a koala census would not save Australia’s national treasure from extinction.

“Koalas have been counted in critical habitat areas only for the government to ignore that data and approve mining and development projects that imperil the koalas calling that land home,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The Greens will move in the parliament for a moratorium on habitat clearing to save the koala from extinction.”

Labor environment spokeswoman Terri Butler …

“Under the Coalition, 170 out of 171 threatened species recovery plans are overdue.

“The threatened species recovery plan for the koala, originally due in 2015, is one of them.”

https://www.miragenews.com/counting-koalas-won-t-save-national-treasure/

Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“Koalas have been counted in critical habitat areas only for the Government to ignore that data and approve mining and development projects that imperil the koalas calling that land home.

“Just last month, the Environment Minister approved a quarry at Pt Stephens which will destroy 52ha of critical habitat for the endangered species.

https://www.nambuccaguardian.com.au/story/7025868/counting-cowper-koalas-18-million-to-help-save-our-icons/

https://spectator.com.au/2020/11/the-great-koala-capers-continue/

Multinational green corporations such as World Wildlife Fund are taking millions of dollars from well-meaning and naive people concerned about the welfare of a very cute, but irruptive species that is in absolutely no danger of extinction — the koala. These ‘charities’ are subsidised by Australian taxpayers. Supposedly conservative governments are falling over themselves to jump on the bandwagon seeking green votes. 

Shooting koalas and using their fur was a humane and economic response to the animal welfare crisis, but it didn’t control the irruptions.

Most young koalas in healthy habitat starve because it is fully occupied by their parents. Only a few lucky ones are able to outcompete some old malnourished koalas with worn-out teeth. 

https://theconversation.com/drones-detection-dogs-poo-spotting-whats-the-best-way-to-conduct-australias-great-koala-count-150634?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2026%202020%20-%201795117425&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2026%202020%20-%201795117425+CID_04b7019fb08c21310b7b52c8b519bbf9&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Drones%20detection%20dogs%20poo%20spotting%20whats%20the%20best%20way%20to%20conduct%20Australias%20Great%20Koala%20Count

The funding might seem like a lot – and, truth be told, it is more than most threatened species receive. But the national distribution of koalas is vast, so the funding equates to about A$1.40 to survey a square kilometre. That means the way koalas are counted in the audit must be carefully considered.

So far, population estimates for koalas at the state and national level are rare and highly uncertain. For example, the last national koala count in 2012 estimated 33,000-153,000 in Queensland, 14,000–73,000 in NSW and 96,000-378,000 in the southern states.

In numerous research and management programs, we have observed that even the most experienced koala spotter may only see 20–80% of koalas present at a site, especially if the vegetation is thick or the terrain difficult to move through.

Detection dogs have been trained to locate koala scats: in one study, dogs were shown to be 150% more accurate and 20 times quicker than humans.

Recently, heat-seeking drones have also been used to detect koalas. This method can be accurate and effective, especially in difficult terrain. We used them extensively to find surviving koalas after the 2019-20 bushfires.

Citizen scientists can also collect important data about koalas. Smartphone apps allow the community to report sightings around Australia, helping to build a picture of where koalas have been seen.

Last summer’s bushfires highlighted how koalas, and other native species, are vulnerable to climate change. And the clearing of koala habitat continues, at times illegally.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/newcastle/programs/mornings/koala-drones/12911388

Dr Stuart Blanch spoke with Kylie Morris to explain the role drones are playing in Koala conservation.

https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/sussan-leys-latest-koala-plan-is-a-national-disaster,14556

WITH THE ANNOUNCEMENT of her latest plan to “save koalas”, Federal Minister Sussan Ley has confirmed she lives in a different reality. One that is focused on ensuring the only koalas people see, in the looming future, will be in zoos.

In April, Ley provided Australia’s zoos and aquariums with a $94.6 million support package:

Imagine how much habitat $94.6 million would have acquired.

No information has been provided on where any $2 million census will be carried out. Given that koalas are found in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, $2 million will not cut the mustard. Nor do we know who will be in charge or how such a census would be undertaken.

$2 million for koala research? Millions and millions of dollars have been granted to various scientists and institutions to find a cure for chlamydia, a disease caused by stress, resulting in a diminished immune system and high mortality.

No cure has been found. The cause is clear — the destruction of habitat.

$18 million for habitat restoration? Where? Is this a tree-planting exercise? Koala tree seedlings take seven years to be suitable for feed and shelter needs.

The Recovery Plan is now eight years overdue.

In NSW, unburned forests which are the remaining koala hubs (identified by the NSW Government) are being bulldozed. Perhaps Ley has forgotten that under the Regional Forest Agreements, no legal challenges are permitted so koalas and wildlife just keeping dying.

Has the Minister not been advised that developers can self refer their projects to the Federal Government? Or that the federal koala referral guidelines are not mandatory?

How about an explanation as to why a scientific submission currently being assessed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to upgrade koalas to endangered status in NSW, Queensland and A.C.T. will not be decided until October 2021?

Sussan Ley’s koala plan is a sick joke. The plan is an indication of the Morrison Government’s ongoing refusal to protect Australia’s iconic, irreplaceable species.

Other Koala issues:

https://www.mamamia.com.au/kai-wild/

Kai thoroughly documented the recovery of the joey on social media, and in September, Joey Kai became the 99th out of what is now over 200 koalas released back into the wild on Kangaroo Island. 

He says our next destructive bushfire season will be this year or next, and we need to be prepared. Because despite the optimism that lives in the pages of The 99th Koala, the damage done to Australia's biodiversity scares him. 

"Who knows how many lifetimes that will take to recover, if it ever will," he says. 

Northern Rivers Times 26/11/2020

[full page ad]

A reward of $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars) is offered for reliable information that leads to the successful criminal prosecution of the person, or persons, or entity responsible for damage and destruction of eucalypt food and habitat trees. Located on private land, within the South Gundurimba Parrots Nest area.

… payable by the land owner, upon whose land the destruction and damage has occurred.

NRC to review logging rules for burnt forests?

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/27/logging-in-nsw-bushfire-hit-coastal-regions-to-be-reviewed-after-stand-off-between-industry-and-epa

The New South Wales government is planning a review of forestry operations in bushfire-hit coastal regions as tensions mount between the environment regulator and Forestry Corporation.

The review, which is still to be formally commissioned, will probably be carried out by the state’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC), government sources have told Guardian Australia.

The state’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued the state-owned Forestry Corporation with a series of stop-work orders this year for breaches of its licence in bushfire-hit forests on the south and north coasts.

Last month, the EPA started five prosecutions against Forestry Corporation in the land and environment court for alleged breaches of its licence in a forest near Coffs Harbour.

Field told Guardian Australia the NRC “will effectively be the arbiter in the disagreement between Forestry Corporation and the EPA over what logging could sustainably happen in burnt forest”.

A spokesman for Barilaro would not confirm a formal review.

The spokesman added that separate to the monitoring program, the government “is also considering an appropriate pathway for Forestry Corporation to recommence operating under standing IFOA conditions and prescriptions” in fire-affected regions across the state.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/call-to-halt-new-logging-in-bushfire-impacted-areas/

Mr Fields has called n the NSW government to give an undertaking to NSW coastal communities that new approvals for logging in the state’s badly burnt public state forests will not be approved until a review by the state’s Independent NRC is completed.

Local Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith told The Echo that, ‘The Greens oppose logging in native forests on a good day, let alone after catastrophic bushfires and the subsequent destruction of wildlife and biodiversity on an unprecedented scale in NSW last summer.

‘I and thousands of environmentalists begged the government to send in ecologists after the fires last summer not loggers, but they did any way.

[Fields] ‘I hope this review reignites the conversation about a transition away from public native forestry. We can reimagine a much more positive future for our public forests as critical ecological and recreational reserves and create a transition plan for the timber sector into plantations and private land forestry where that can be done responsibly,’ he said.

Another Australian icon going down:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-23/research-shows-platypus-under-threat-as-koalas-get-new-funding/12910412

The platypus has lost 22 per cent of its habitat in just 30 years, leaving it likely to meet the criteria for threatened species, according to research led by the University of New South Wales and commissioned by a coalition of conservation groups.

Dams, over-extraction, land clearing, pollution and predation by feral dogs and foxes were among the main threats, which together could have caused half of all platypuses to disappear, according to the researchers.

"There is a real concern that platypus populations will disappear from some of our rivers without returning, if rivers keep degrading with droughts and dams," said UNSW's Richard Kingsford, one of the lead authors of the report.

The egg-laying mammal's range has been most dramatically slashed in NSW, where 32 per cent of its habitat has disappeared.

https://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/7025794/near-death-platypuses-returned-after-recovery-but-wider-threat-remains/

Aussie Ark has returned five platypus to the wild that were in distress in the Hunter River catchment during the bushfire crisis and drought.

The native mammals were "severely malnourished" and their waterproof fur was showing signs of "extreme distress".

They were found at Moonan Brook in the Barrington Tops in muddy pools of water no bigger than backyard swimming pools and were "essentially swimming in their own faecal matter".

They had little to no food available and rising water temperatures were threatening their lives.

"Platypuses are to rivers what koalas are to forests," said Dr Stuart Blanch, of WWF-Australia.

Mr Faulkner said: "Platypus have been on Earth for nearly 200 million years unchanged. Events like this are changing them now. Let's not let them disappear in our lifetime."

https://2ser.com/platypus-under-threat-as-habitat-dwindles/

One of the researchers at UNSW, Dr Gilad Bino joined us to talk about what lies ahead for the platypus and its habitat.

… and they’re brighter than you think:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-26/glow-in-the-dark-marsupials-surprise-scientists-biofluorescence/12910820

Following the accidental discovery by scientists in the United States that platypuses glow under UV light, further tests by Australian scientists show other mammals and marsupials also glow.

Biofluorescence has long been known to occur in some insects and sea creatures, but it was unknown that it occurred in other Australian mammals until earlier this month, when scientists at the Western Australian Museum rushed to check their specimen drawers to factcheck the US report.

"We pulled the monotreme [egg-laying mammals like platypuses] drawer and the platypuses fluoresced, and it was amazing," she told ABC Radio Hobart.

Dr Travouillon suggests that "the benefit is probably so they can see their species from a distance, and they can approach them because they know that it is safe to go towards that animal."

Parrots another zoonotic disease threat:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-77500-5

Chlamydia psittaci (order: Chlamydiales) is a globally distributed zoonotic bacterium that can cause potentially fatal disease in birds and humans. … We reveal a higher chlamydial prevalence than previously reported in many wild parrots, with implications for potential reservoirs, and transmission risks to humans and other avian hosts.

… as well as devastating our fruit industry:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-11-25/black-cockatoos-damage-apple-harvest/12915174

  • WA apple producers say black cockatoos are costing the industry millions of dollars annually
  • Three species of black cockatoos are endemic to WA, including the Carnaby's, Baudin's and forest red-tailed
  • The pome industry is calling for federal funds allocated for netting projects to be expedited

"Don't forget that you are dealing with an animal that is highly intelligent and potentially long lived, and they soon learn that these things go bang at regular or irregular intervals and they will ignore them in time," he said.

Mr Saunders said netting was the obvious answer but argued producers should factor that into in the cost of production.

"If it's too expensive, then maybe they shouldn't be producing apple and pear orchards, because at the moment they have an environmental subsidy, and that environmental subsidy is the destruction of an endangered species."

Burning forests for the powerful:

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/opposition-to-forest-biomass-energy-goes-global/

Today protesters gathered on Tweed Valley Way next to the Condong Sugar Mill to show their opposition to what they say is the burning of trees to power the grid which is going on right in our own backyard.

During the International Day of Action on Forest Biomass Energy, the Biomass Action Group (BAG), who staged the local event, say that Cape Byron Power is attracting government subsidies to make it profitable, while incentivising deforestation.

Spokesperson Shaunti Kiehl said this international mass action day will flow around the world. ‘The focus is an important petition that needs to attract many thousands of individual signatures to make a big impact.

The petition can be found here: https://you.wemove.eu/campaigns/the-eu-must-protect-forests-not-burn-them-for-energy.

https://www.realwire.com/releases/International-Day-of-Action-on-Forest-Biomass-sees-demand-for-subsidies

LONDON – 24th November, 2020 – Today is International Day of Action on Forest Biomass and opposition to biomass subsidies is mounting on policymakers across the UK and European member states. On this day, groups around the world are calling on Europe to exclude biomass from receiving renewable energy subsidies and people are posting messages on social media using the hashtag #forestsarenotfuel to highlight the ecosystem destruction and climate chaos caused by the biomass industry.

Biomass is classified as renewable energy under UK law and receives generous subsidies on this basis[2]; however, a growing number of scientists are speaking out against this classification, including the European Academies Scientific Advisory Council[3] and nearly 800 scientists who wrote to the EU Commission in 2018 calling for forest biomass to be removed from the renewable category.[4]

“Current UK subsidy laws mean that over a billion pounds a year is spent on subsiding biomass which destroys forests, makes the climate crisis worse and adds to environmental injustice,” said Frances Howe at Biofuelwatch. “The UK already imports and burns wood pellets made from more trees than we can produce in a year. With yet another biomass power station due to come online in 2021, there is no way this can be considered renewable energy.”

Redirecting biomass subsidies to support solar and wind is the primary goal of Cut Carbon Not Forests, which urges supporters to take action by emailing their local MP.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/burning-our-forests-for-energy-unsustainable-say-nefa/

‘The imminent rebooting of the mothballed Redbank Power Station (near Singleton) with north-east NSW’s forests will make it Australia’s most polluting power station and an existential threat to the future of our children and wildlife,’ according to the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).

According to NEFA Hunter Energy is currently seeking expressions of interest for timber from across north-east NSW to fuel their Redbank Power Station, with plans to restart the facility in mid-2021 fed by native forests to make it one of world’s ten biggest biomass power plants.

‘The claims are that it will power 200,000 homes, which was identified in 2017 North Coast Residues Report as requiring one million tonnes of biomass to be taken from north-east NSW’s forests and plantations each year, with 60 per cent of this coming from private forests,’ said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

‘This is sheer madness as burning this volume will release some 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year to fuel climate heating, increased droughts, heatwaves, and more intense bushfires, while increasing forest degradation and hastening species extinctions.

‘The community needs to urgently speak up to stop the NSW and Commonwealth Governments from allowing this environmental disaster,’ Mr Pugh said.

Forestry creating allies:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-23/nsw-south-coast-clubs-push-for-world-class-mountain-bike-circuit/12905070

Mountain bike enthusiasts from the New South Wales Far South Coast and Snowy Monaro are joining forces to put the area on the map as a "world-class" mountain biking tourism destination.

Narooma Mountain Bike Club has just received approval from Forestry Corporation of NSW to open 30 kilometres of trails in the Bodalla State Forest.

The Eden club has also gained support from Forestry NSW to apply for grants to create 60 kilometres of trails in the Nullica State Forest.

A spokesperson for Forestry NSW said they will continue to work with both the Eden and Narooma communities to help develop trails in the area.

https://www.edenmagnet.com.au/story/7017801/green-light-for-world-class-trails-in-edens-state-forest/

Plantation sell-off:

https://www.afr.com/street-talk/forestry-bigwig-fires-up-australian-portfolio-sale-resolute-hired-20201125-p56hpc

Forestry investment giant Global Forest Partners LP has put a portfolio of Australian softwood plantations on the block, sparking expectations of one of the biggest domestic forestry deals in the past decade.

It is understood Global Forest Partners is seeking a buyer for the Green Triangle Forest Products (GTFP) softwood business, which owns plantations in the "green triangle" in South Australia and Victoria and services sawmills that supply the residential construction market.

Potential buyers were told the up-for-grabs portfolio was a 25,000 hectare freehold estate

Cooking the earth:

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/australia-set-to-sizzle-as-mercury-creeps-up-to-50c/ar-BB1bmgLZ

Australians who endured the relentless bushfires last summer are on edge again, with sweltering temperatures of up to 50C predicted in some areas over the next few days. 

A heatwave will blast the country's east from Thursday for five days, affecting swatches of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. 

Severe fire danger is predicted for the weekend, with some temperatures set to exceed long standing records in some locations, with high 40C seen across NSW.

'Some temperatures could be as much as 15 to 18C above the average.

'Broadly across the country the heat actually is going to remain in place for quite a long time,' he said.

'The heat remains in place much of this week, and then it kind of recirculates next week.'

https://theconversation.com/humans-are-changing-fire-patterns-and-its-threatening-4-403-species-with-extinction-150532

Last summer, many Australians were shocked to see fires sweep through the wet tropical rainforests of Queensland, where large and severe fires are almost unheard of. This is just one example of how human activities are changing fire patterns around the world, with huge consequences for wildlife.

In a major new paper published in Science, we reveal how changes in fire activity threaten more than 4,400 species across the globe with extinction. This includes 19% of birds, 16% of mammals, 17% of dragonflies and 19% of legumes that are classified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.

There are three main ways humans are transforming fire activity: global climate change, land-use and the introduction of pest species.

A suite of emerging actions — some established but receiving increasing attention, others new — could help us navigate this new fire era and save species from extinction. They include:

For example, new modelling has allowed University of Melbourne researchers to identify alternative strategies for introducing planned or prescribed burning that reduces the risk of large bushfires to koalas.

… Lebanon’s famed cedars feeling the heat:

https://www.gpb.org/news/2020/11/25/climate-change-closes-in-on-lebanons-iconic-cedar-trees

The cedar tree is a source of national pride in Lebanon.

But now the very survival of these ancient giants is in question. Scientists say rising temperatures and worsening drought conditions brought about by climate change are driving wildfires in this Middle Eastern country to ever higher altitudes, encroaching upon the mountains where the cedars grow.

Warming temperatures have spawned infestations of the web-spinning sawfly, which has decimated entire tracts of forest.

The fire that Taleb and his friends fought this summer marked the first time on record that wildfires have reached Lebanon's cedar trees.

Across Lebanon, wildfires have been more frequent and intense. George Mitri, a scientist and director of the land and natural resources program at the Lebanese University of Balamand, says the fires this year burned through an area seven times larger than the annual average. At one point in October, his team counted 150 wildfires in just 48 hours.

"This was the worst fire season on record," Mitri says. "It's a national disaster."

In the Tannourine Nature Reserve, climate change is killing cedars in a different way.

The sawfly is native to this forest and used to coexist with the cedars. "This insect used to sleep under the soil, hibernating, for six to seven years," says Nabil Nemer, an entomologist who identified the sawfly as the cause of a new destruction of the trees in Tannourine forest. "Now, with warmer temperatures it has changed its life cycle to emerge every year." The insects now lay eggs on the cedar buds, which the larvae then eat, killing the tree.

The changing weather has also affected the forest's microbiome. "There used to be a balance in which other microorganisms would cause disease in the sawfly, controlling its population," says Nemer. But these microorganisms survive only in a humid environment. As these forests dry out, the sawfly population soars. Now, Nemer says, the insect has been identified as a cause of blight in most of Lebanon's cedar reserves.

Assault on world’s treasures:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/big-builders-plans-threaten-to-wreck-forest-survival/

LONDON, 24 November, 2020 − Forest survival in the world’s great conservation targets − the Amazon, the Congo and South-east Asia, for example − is at risk from not just ranchers, loggers and illegal foresters: it’s also under assault from some of the planet’s biggest spenders: governments and the big banks, giant mining corporations and road builders.

A new report warns that in the Amazon region alone − across Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador − governments have promised $27bn worth of investment on 12,000 kms (7,456 miles) of roads over the next five years. If all the promised infrastructure goes ahead, that could mean the loss of 24,000 square kilometres of forest in the next 20 years.

The Indonesian government is planning to drive a 4,000 km network of highway through a national park in Papua, western New Guinea, for access to 500 sq kms of mining concessions. A new planned railway in Kalimantan, Indonesia, will open up new opportunities for palm oil plantations and coal mining concessions.

And in sub-Saharan Africa nations plan dozens of “international development corridors” to provide access to minerals and to energy. The plans threaten to cut through 400 protected areas and degrade another 1800.

“Big new projects under way or planned in the Amazon, Indonesia, Meso-America, the Congo basin and beyond, reveal that our insatiable appetite for coal, minerals, metals, energy and agricultural commodities like soy has opened up a new front in the battle to protect the world’s forests,” said Franziska Haupt, executive director of Climate Focus, Berlin, and the lead author of a new report on efforts so far to limit the destruction of the world’s forests.

“Some governments are compounding this threat and rolling back forest protections, as countries struggle to cope with the economic fallout of Covid-19.”

Forests are key to limiting climate change. It is not enough simply to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy to halt global heating: the climate emergency also requires nations to halt the destruction of, and restore, the world’s great forests.

“Many of these projects would never get the green light if the true value of forests was factored in − their role in reducing climate change, protecting animal habitats and reducing the spread of zoonotic diseases [infections caught from other creatures], keeping water sources clean, providing economic opportunity and a long list of other benefits without a price tag,” said Erin Matson, a consultant at Climate Focus, and a co-author.

“Forests are at a dangerous tipping point, and these new large-scale infrastructure projects could push us over the edge and undermine global efforts to stop deforestation.

https://www.eco-business.com/news/big-builders-plans-threaten-to-wreck-forest-survival/

https://theconversation.com/one-fifth-of-ecosystems-in-danger-of-collapse-heres-what-that-might-look-like-148137

One in five countries are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing, threatening more than half of global GDP (US$42 trillion, or £32 trillion), according to recent research. This scary sounding statistic raises all sorts of questions.

Natural ecosystems can resist stresses from human actions or the climate for a long time – but only up to a point. After a while, these stresses drive positive feedback loops that push the system over a tipping point.

Much of the deforestation across the Amazon basin occurs in patches. But as more local patches are cleared, the forest opens up and makes the regional climate drier, which global warming encourages. The entire forest becomes more prone to drought and wildfire as a result.

We do know that the duration of a collapse is relative to an ecosystem’s size. The bigger the ecosystem, the slower it will collapse because there are more species and connections to fail. There is also more chance that larger system collapses will be triggered at the same time in multiple places, as with the 2019-2020 wildfires in Australia.

My own research has revealed that Caribbean coral reefs could collapse in just a few years, and the entire Amazon rainforest could collapse in a matter of decades.


Forest Media 20 November 2020

Koalas were once again the hot issue, with the Koala killing bill being referred to the Koala committee for review in the NSW Upper House thanks to a principled stance by Catherine Cusack. There were revelations that the bill went beyond what was agreed by Cabinet by over-riding Councils ability to protect high conservation value areas in environmental zones from logging and clearing. - the Liberal claim to not have realised this when they voted for it in the Lower House but they didn't change it when it went to the Upper House. Catherine Cusack was swiftly sacked as Parliamentary Secretary, they are reverting to SEPP 44 and Berejiklian announced she is going to find another way to remove Koala protection. Fred Nile voted for Koala extinction contrary to the growing moves in the church to protect "God's creation".

The impending logging of Bungabbee had a run, with the value of looking before they log proven and the locals asking people to sign their petition. Friends of Kalang Headwaters have launched their Headwaters Conservation Proposal.

Its not just potoroos, wallabies are super spreaders of the underground fungi necessary for healthy ecosystems. Concerns raised that as ecosystems become more endangered their protection is removed.

Indonesian conversion of rainforests to palm oil plantations for biofuels is now focussed on west Papua. With estimates of 10 million hectares of the world's forest lost each year, an average French person would “eat” an average of 352 m2 of forest each year - how much forest do you "eat". Planting trees and creating urban parks brings more green spaces and cleaner air, cutting heart deaths and saving lives. And we need more trees to remove atmospheric carbon, which can been a boon for disadvantaged communities.

Peter FitzSimons did a good opinion piece in the SMH:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/we-are-one-let-s-sing-it-from-the-rooftops-20201113-p56eg9.html

Nats held back

Here's to – and I mean this – the heroes in the Liberal Party in the NSW upper house who this week have managed to hold off the outrageous attempted amendment to the Land Services Act being driven by John Barilaro’s National Party to make land-clearing easier in this state. I refer specifically to Catherine Cusack, who is leading the push, ready to cross the floor, and who told me yesterday, “I sent a message to Premier last week saying I couldn’t support it if goes ahead.” Due to pass on Thursday, it has now been pushed to next Tuesday, to give us all time to breathe.

If approved, it removes koala protection on private property – significant as two-thirds of koalas live on private property – enables millions of hectares to be cleared/logged and removes the ability of local councils to prohibit clearing/logging or other “allowable activities” in environmental zones, while also increases logging approvals from 15 to 30 years.

In sum, it would be nothing less than an environmental catastrophe, driven by a man who, as discussed, refers to koalas as “tree rats”.

Despite the insanity of it, the legislation has passed the Legislative Assembly, and would have gotten through the Upper House on Thursday if not for some of the Libs threatening to cross the floor. The Nationals are carpet-biting mad about it, which is too bad.

And yes, the Nats assert the landowners should be able to do this because it is their “right” to do with their own land whatever they like. No, it is not their right. If a stream passes through my property, do I have a right to dump waste in it so that everyone downstream will have polluted water? Obviously not. Well, that’s the situation we are in. As a state, as a country, and as a planet we must stop knocking over trees! And yes, the tragic truth is that many trees are worth more dead than alive, which sees the economic imperative to bowl them over. But that is where a sane government must step in for the greater good and have legislation which prevents such insane destruction of our environment, not enable it.

Gladys, on a good day – I am told – gets it. But right now she has been so distracted by the former Member for Dodgy, the pandemic and the resultant economic wobbles that she has let this get away from her. Hence the move by the smart and brave Libs in the Upper House to hold the Nats off until she can get back on top of this.

... the pressure mounted:

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/subscribe/news/1/?sourceCode=DTWEB_WRE170_a_GGL&dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailytelegraph.com.au%2Fnews%2Fnsw%2Fbarnesy-and-onj-turn-screws-on-fragile-libsnats-truce-over-koala-laws%2Fnews-story%2F5bf195ece7ea7f3d9b2165a55cb25d21&memtype=anonymous&mode=premium&v21suffix=155-b

Celebs join koala fight as Lib casts doubt on law

Working class man Jimmy Barnes and Aussie sweetheart Olivia Newton-John have weighed into the ongoing fight between Liberals and Nationals MPs over koala habitat.

https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/extinction-of-koalas-means-the-death-of-our-countrys-soul,14526

Koalas are dying as a direct result of governments’ policies of extermination. Defenceless wildlife is being deliberately wiped out because it’s in the way of development, infrastructure, forestry, urbanisation, mining and unsustainable population growth through high levels of immigration.

Our democracy is corrupted. Public interest legal rights have been repealed. There is no transparency. There are no policies to ensure habitat protection, no policies to address the cumulative impacts of development projects, logging, urbanisation — all destroying habitat, taking the lives of defenceless koalas and other forest-dependent species.

Every koala is now sacred. ...

In 2012, when the koala was listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act as “vulnerable”, a National Koala Recovery Plan was recommended.   No recovery plan has been developed.

The international outcry over koalas is unprecedented. Millions of dollars poured into the country in a global expression of compassion and concern — to no avail.

As the NSW Government, through its National Party coalition partner, tries to shove yet another koala killing bill through the Parliament in spite of thousands of protests, Australians need to know we are on the verge of a historic, irreplaceable, avoidable loss.

... Nationals sneaky cheats while Liberals turn a blind eye:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/deputy-premier-barilaro-intervenes-to-stop-new-koala-wars-outbreak-20201118-p56fnc.html

NSW's koala wars have taken another twist with Nationals leader John Barilaro forced to intervene to reverse unsanctioned changes to a bill introduced by one of his senior colleagues that threatened to detonate divisions within the Coalition government.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall has been accused of inserting changes to the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2020 beyond those agreed by cabinet, multiple sources have told the Herald. Those additions expanded the "allowables" for land-clearing, which would have removed virtually all planning oversight.

Key Liberals, including Planning Minister Rob Stokes, only detected the additions buried within the legislation after it had passed the lower house with Coalition support.

Mr Marshall then refused to budge, prompting the Liberals to demand Deputy Premier Mr Barilaro to broker a deal to remove unapproved provisions and restore key protection when the bill goes to the upper house.

Mr Barilaro's intervention has soured relations with his Nationals colleague Mr Marshall. It could also impact relations between Liberals and Nationals ministers over future legislation they put before the Parliament.

"There will be no ministerial direction requiring any local council to zone core koala habitat as an environmental zone – period," Mr Marshall said.

The moves within the Coalition to secure passage of the bill, though, may turn out to be futile, with upper house Liberal MP Catherine Cusack sticking to her plans to block it and push it into an open-ended committee inquiry.

"You may have heard, as I have, the government is likely to move amendments to the bill to improve it," Ms Cusack told her upper house colleagues in a communication obtained by the Herald. "However, this does not alter my opposition to it.

"I have many objections to the bill but I am particularly offended by the way it has landed like a spacecraft from Mars and rendered irrelevant decades of work and investment within an agreed framework.

"It reflects my belief that the opportunity to expose these ideas to some sunlight is the very best course we could take given the issues are not going away even if the bill is defeated."

... then they voted for it anyway, but Catherine refused to:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/koala-bill-block-by-dissident-liberal-prompts-nsw-nationals-meeting-20201119-p56g8i.html

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has dumped upper house Liberal Catherine Cusack from her role as a parliamentary secretary after she voted against a government bill that was meant to end division within the coalition over koala planning policy.

Ms Cusack's vote was crucial in blocking the bill, which went down 18-19. The move prompted a snap Thursday night meeting by the National Party to address anger over Ms Cusack vote which will have the Local Land Services Bill amendments sent to a committee, a move that effectively prevents its passage until well into 2021.

In a joint statement, Ms Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the state's farmers "deserve certainty and they do not deserve to be held to ransom by a Greens-controlled inquiry".

"[We] have agreed the NSW government will revert to operations under the former SEPP 44 by the end of the month and in the new year we will develop a policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers."

"My faith in the processes has been shattered," Ms Cusack said, adding her lower house counterparts had voted on a bill that was "not what you thought and intended".

https://www.youngwitness.com.au/story/7020684/berejiklian-sacks-lib-mp-after-koala-vote/

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/gladys-berejiklian-sacks-parliamentary-secretary-for-not-supporting-renegotiated-nsw-koala-bill

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-19/nsw-koala-bill-scrapped-as-liberal-mp-crosses-floor/12902160

Rather than have the bill examined by a parliamentary inquiry, the Government made the snap decision tonight to dump the legislation altogether.

With the bill now dead in the water, the Government will revert to its former policy on land management under the State Environmental Planning Policy despite the fact it has already expired.

"In the new year we will develop a policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers," the Premier said.

It's understood there is now tension between the Premier and Planning Minister Rob Stokes, who had carriage of the now failed bill.

He said the old rules were "rudimentary" and needed modernising.

The NSW Government will now end 2020 back at square one on an issue that threatened to tear it apart just months ago.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/20/nsw-koala-war-flares-as-gladys-berejiklian-sacks-parliamentary-secretary-for-crossing-floor

On Friday morning the chief executive of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Chris Gambian, said it was a “regression” for koala protections at a time when the animal is under assessment for a national endangered listing.

“All that good work planning had done in working up a decent Sepp is wasted,” he said. “It’s outrageous. The National party has spent a lot of time this year just wasting everybody’s time.”

https://www.2gb.com/governments-koala-policy-scrapped-in-manner-no-one-could-have-imagined/

[Has an ingratiating interview with Balilaro where he is being sickly sweet and claiming getting rid of the new SEPP as a victory]

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-19/nsw-koala-bill-scrapped-as-liberal-mp-crosses-floor/12902160

Mr Barilaro described the scrapping of the controversial koala bill as "fresh start".

"The war that we had was ugly, there's no doubt about that," he said.

"I actually think the Coalition is stronger today because what we'll now do is work together and get the right outcome.

"I actually think today is a fresh start and it's a blank canvas ... and farmers can get on with what they do best and of course we'll work towards a better strategy going forward."

https://www.miragenews.com/koala-sepp-lasting-solution-needed-in-2021/

NSW Farmers’ President James Jackson said after enduring the worst drought many rural families and communities have ever experienced, farmers were forced to defend their businesses from government intrusion through misguided State Environment Protection Policies.

“The Koala SEPP’s overreach into agricultural land has caused farmers and regional communities a great deal of hurt and insecurity this year, so this decision leaves many wondering what has all this been in aid of?

“This year has demonstrated that one ill-conceived and poorly drafted planning instrument can instantly strip away farmers’ property rights and destroy their business – this level of sovereign risk is not acceptable in a leading sub-national economy like NSW.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/no-thinking-let-alone-a-conscience-on-koalas-allowed/

It appears that governance in NSW is no longer about representing your constituents, it is about following the party line, no questions asked

According to the Chair of the Inquiry into Koala Populations and their Habitat Greens MP Cate Faehrmann MLC, ‘The bill [had it passed] would have: frozen the inclusion of new koala habitat under the Koala SEPP; allowed land clearing within “environmental zones” on rural lands; Removed local council’s ability to require development applications for Private Native Forestry; [and] doubled the maximum duration of private native forestry agreements.’

[Ms Cusack] I tried for the Blackhall Range koala community. I lost faith in Federal protections in the process, so I am fully aware that there is no Federal backstop if this bill passes today.

‘That issue and its outcome have been really significant in how I have arrived at my position today, because all of the fine words explaining how much Roads and Maritime Services and others care about koalas were for nothing. I no longer have any confidence in fine words. I just have to process what is on the table in front of me. I was not party to the processes that brought this bill to the House. I cannot be held accountable and nor can I have any faith in that process, which has zero to do with protecting koalas. It is to try to patch-up a political disagreement.’

North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh has highlighted the fact that this is double standard, ‘when Chris Gulaptis said he was going to go to the cross-benches and vote against the government he wasn’t sacked as a Parliamentary Secretary.

After sacking Ms Cusack ‘Premier Berejiklian then released a statement with Barilaro saying they are going to revert to the 1995 Koala SEPP 44. This is the same SEPP that Byron’s Coastal Koala Plan of Management was prepared under and the government has refused to ratify since 2016, as well as refusing to ratify Tweeds since 2015. From Ben Franklin’s statements in parliament, it is clear that they are going to continue to block these and all the other plans they have been sitting on for years until the National Party find another way to subvert koala protection.’

A good Koala video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OGAlrH8uXE

Bungabbee gets a run:

https://www.facebook.com/NorthernRiversTimes/posts/182130100194962?__tn__=K-R

THE North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) says the gloves are off to save the Bungabbee State Forest north of Bentley 15 kilometres northwest of Lismore, which it says is the latest area on the North Coast under threat from logging.

"The finding of a large unknown outlying population of the regionally endemic Marbled Frogmouth is exciting. This is one of only a handful of species that the Forestry Corporation is still required to protect additional habitat for, though in this case there is no requirement to look before they log, and luckily we did”.

"It was particularly disturbing to find significant populations of the critically endangered Scrub Turpentine and Native Guava. The very survival of these species is threatened by the introduced fungus Myrtle Rust, they are unlikely to regenerate and now the Forestry Corporation are intending to bulldoze over the survivors”, Dailan Pugh said.

"Our results clearly demonstrate the need for pre-logging surveys to identify the presence and locations of threatened species so they can be appropriately protected”.

“The proposed North Coast Rail Trail passes within a few kilometres of Bungabbee which would provide a cluster of trails perfect for those seeking more challenging cycling experiences”, Renata who has been working with a team of locals to share information and organise future actions said.

“The local community is strongly opposed to the logging and are taking a pro-active stance lobbying against the proposed actions”, she said.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/bentley-prepping-for-another-fight/

A Petition against the logging can be signed online or in person at the Lismore Environment Centre, Goolmangar and Cawongla Stores, Rock Valley Post Office, Night Owl in Lismore and other locations

Headwaters Conservation Proposal launched:

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/7019538/animal-justice-mp-to-launch-nature-reserve-proposal/

NSW Upper House MP for the Animal Justice Party, Mark Pearson, will visit Bellingen this month to launch the proposal of a new nature reserve for the Mid North Coast.

The reserve proposal encompasses the entirety of the Upper Kalang River headwaters, the Bellinger River catchment and part of the Nambucca River catchment. Within this reserve proposal is all of Buckrabendinni, Roses Creek and Oakes State Forests and part of Diehappy, Irishman and Scotchman State Forests.

In October last year, Bellingen council voted to support the Headwaters Nature Reserve proposal, with a motion that noted the impact of the Bees Nest fire on habitat and biodiversity, acknowledged the crucial role the Kalang Headwaters area plays in water security, and mentioned the community campaign protesting Forestry Corporation's plans to log the area.

More information about the proposal can be found here:

http://friendsofkalangheadwaters.com.au/index.php/headwaters-conservation-proposal/

Other attendees include NSW MPs David Shoebridge (Greens) and Marjorie O'Neill (Labor, Coogee) Bellingen Shire Mayor Dominic King as well as councillors and community members from across the region.

While Fred Nile voted to kill Koalas, what would God want?

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2020-11/laudato-si-australia-converstion-knox-pedem.html

Care for our common home is at the center of Knox Peden’s conversion. ... organizing conversations with fellow parishioners in Canberra on the message contained in Pope Francis’s Encyclical, as well as prayer walks in nature.

Knox Peden is one of over 10 thousand Laudato si’ Animators throughout the world formed by the Global Catholic Climate Movement. These are people who, for the most part, were already dedicated in their own local parishes, associations, or religious traditions and who feel particularly called to live integral ecology and Laudato si’,

When he discovered Laudato si’, he felt a “shock of recognition”, he explains, recognizing himself in the critique the Pope made regarding modernity and the current crisis. He is referring to Pope Francis’s exhortation regarding the environment as well as the relationship between nature and the society that inhabits it, because, as the Pope writes in the Encyclical, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental” (Par 139).

Based on his experience, the University of Queensland professor reads Laudato si’ as a means of ecological conversion as well as a resource for evangelization. “Ecological conversion is a matter of opening and expanding our sense of dependency. Spiritual conversion tells us we depend on God; ecological conversion extends the idea to tell us we depend on creation, what God has made.”

Wallabies super spreaders:

https://phys.org/news/2020-11-truffle-munching-wallabies-forest.html

Edith Cowan University researcher Dr. Melissa Danks led an investigation into how swamp wallabies spread truffle spores around the environment, and results demonstrate the importance of these animals to the survival of the forest.

"Truffles live in a mutually beneficial relationship with these plants, helping them to uptake water and nutrients and defense against disease. Unlike mushrooms where spores are dispersed through wind and water from their caps, truffles are found underground with the spores inside an enclosed ball—they need to be eaten by an animal to move their spores."

"Wallabies are browsing animals that will munch on ferns and leaves as well as a wide array of mushrooms and truffles," she said.

Results showed the wallabies could move hundreds of meters, and occasionally more than 1200 meters, from the original truffle source before the spores appeared in their poo, which makes them a very effective at dispersing truffles around the forest.

As ecological communities become more threatened protection decreases:

https://theconversation.com/we-found-a-huge-flaw-in-australias-environment-laws-wetlands-and-woodlands-will-pay-the-price-150083?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2019%202020%20-%201788817360&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2019%202020%20-%201788817360+CID_98193c5a08fd714e40d9877b7d26f000&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=We%20found%20a%20huge%20flaw%20in%20Australias%20environment%20laws%20Wetlands%20and%20woodlands%20will%20pay%20the%20price

There are currently 85 threatened ecological communities listed in the EPBC Act, and the majority of them are listed as critically endangered or endangered.

Major threats to these communities include land clearing and development, which can increase their risk of extinction.

Most listings of threatened ecological communities contain very specific “condition thresholds”.

If areas of a community do not meet these specific minimum thresholds, it means a landholder doesn’t require approval to clear or develop parts of a community, if those parts are perceived to be “poor quality” habitat.

Importantly, we need to change our approach to environmental governance frameworks, including seriously rethinking condition thresholds in the EPBC Act, to ensure we can continue to protect biodiversity as it rapidly changes before us.

Papua a deforestation front as biofuels replace oil:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/indonesia-forest-fire-peat-haze-palm-oil-jokowi-omnibus-bill-13533700

Papua has 50 per cent of Indonesia’s biodiversity and is home to thousands of unique endemic species. According to the Center for International Forestry Research, in 2018, 34.3 million hectares, or 83 per cent of Papua’s total land area remained as primary forest (forests untouched by human activity).

But it is fast disappearing.

A first look at the data shows that 2020 has seen a significant tree cover loss in Papua compared to earlier years. Much of this destruction has taken place behind the veil of COVID-19 restrictions.

The “Omnibus Bill”, which has been passed by Parliament on Oct 5, will relax laws and eliminate environmental regulations to increase foreign investment and fast-track the expansion of palm oil and pulpwood concessions, mining and infrastructure projects.

Between 2015 and 2018, carbon emissions from peatland fires attributed to the plantation sector totalled 427 megatons – equivalent to the average annual emissions of 110 coal-fired power plants or 91 million cars.

Overall, the Bill reinforces a policy shift towards the expansion of the oil palm sector driven by President Joko Widodo’s ambition to reach self-sufficiency in biofuel.

Scientists have repeatedly warned the use of energy crops in biofuels is no solution to climate change, but a way to exacerbate it – since forests need to be cleared to grow crops, which will only lead to more carbon emissions.

For instance, the Indonesian Government gifted the biofuel industry with a US$195 million stimulus package from the government’s economic COVID-19 recovery plan.

The incentive was designed to bolster an industry facing difficult times, but instead of assisting struggling farmers, the funds were largely distributed among palm oil tycoons.

... Netherlands released in June 2020, found that a small increase in air pollution was linked to a measurable increase in COVID-19 death rates.

https://theindependent.sg/while-world-grappled-with-covid-19-indonesia-lost-over-200000-hectares-to-forest-fires/

We deforest to eat:

https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/the-eus-imported-deforestation-problem-a-closer-look/

Forestry policy was on the agenda for Europe’s agriculture ministers on Monday, which made for a heated debate since Europeans are, through their lifestyles, contributing to massive deforestation worldwide.

Their diversity and richness make these ecosystems highly sought-after environments. However, as the timber trade continues to boom and land is cleared for agricultural purposes, forest areas are constantly shrinking. According to FAO estimates, 10 million hectares of forest area are lost each year, an area the size of Portugal.

According to the FAO, production-oriented agriculture remains one of the main causes of this phenomenon. The UN organisation estimates that between 2000 and 2010, “large-scale commercial agriculture was responsible for almost 40% of deforestation in the tropical world”, notably through livestock breeding, soya cultivation and palm oil production.

In its 2018 report, French NGO Envol vert found that the production of soy, leather, palm oil, paper, coffee, rubber, cocoa and wood are – in that order – the main sources of deforestation and that a French person would “eat” an average of 352 m2 of forest each year to meet his or her needs.

Faced with this challenge, France’s High Climate Council recently recommended that the French government accelerate the strategy to combat imported deforestation, because “while greenhouse gas emissions on the national territory are falling, imported emissions are continually increasing”, according to its latest report.

“No EU rules prohibit the placing on the European market of products that have contributed to the destruction of forests”, explained the Vice-President of the S&D Group and member of the Environment Committee, Eric Andrieu, in a statement. Andrieu hopes that sanctions are introduced against “companies that put products derived from raw materials that endanger forests and ecosystems on the European market.”

The ball is now in the court of the Commission, which is due to present its new EU forestry strategy shortly.

Saving trees saves lives:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/green-spaces-keep-hearts-healthy-and-save-lives/

Planting trees and creating urban parks brings more green spaces and cleaner air, cutting heart deaths and saving lives.

LONDON, 16 November, 2020 − A vast study of the incidence of heart disease, the amount of green spaces and air quality in each county of the United States has shown that the presence of trees, shrubs and grass saves lives.

For every 0.10 (12.5%) increase in what’s called the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index, heart disease decreased by 13 deaths per 100,000. For every one microgram increase in particulate matter per cubic metre of air, heart disease increased by roughly 39 deaths per 100,000.

“We found that areas with better air quality have higher greenness, and that having higher greenness measures, in turn, is related to having a lower rate of deaths from heart disease,” said William Aitken, a cardiology fellow with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Florida.

“Given the potential cardiovascular benefits of higher greenness measures, it’s important that dialogue about improved health and quality of life include environmental policies that support increasing greenness,” he said.

It is clear from this research that they could both remove particulates from the air and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by increasing the amount of vegetation in polluted areas.

We need more trees to save us:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/11/without-planting-more-trees-in-the-tropics-we-cant-fix-the-climate-commentary/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=e45fdf6e5d-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-e45fdf6e5d-77229786&mc_cid=e45fdf6e5d&mc_eid=c0875d445f

But the basic physics and complex economics of climate change are clear that cutting emissions drastically and stopping deforestation, while necessary, are not by themselves sufficient. We need to also suck out massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, partly because emissions reductions cannot run fast enough, and partly because we’ve already emitted far too much carbon.

The only technology we have currently that can suck carbon out of the atmosphere at any kind of scale is growing trees. So tree planting and forest restoration are essential, and we need to scale up our current paltry efforts urgently.

By funding farmers to grow trees on their land, they add an additional revenue stream to some of the world’s poorest families, improve the biodiversity of these landscapes, and potentially increase the resilience of these farmers to extreme events such as storms and floods.

However, tree planting in different locations is not created equal. Fundamentally, trees grow much faster in the tropics, and land and labor are much cheaper there.


Forest Media 13 November 2020

Our Koala Kill Bill actions and pressure on MPs were successful in convincing Catherine Cusack to threaten to cross the floor, resulting in voting on the bill in the Upper House being delayed. We need to keep the pressure up to get the changes Koalas need. The relationship between Gladys and developers has been questioned, The Federal Government is saying they may do something soon, other than just spending millions on koala hospitals, while WWF found between 2010 and 2018 43,113 hectares of known koala habitat was cleared (excluding logging operations) with more than 1500 koalas killed or displaced.

Greater Gliders have been recognised as 3 distinct species, making all species more threatened. Parma Wallaby is another species with millions spent on compounds as we go on destroying and degrading their habitats. Pardalotes are another of the eucalypt foragers losing their habitat while being hounded by out of control Miners.

Fauna are getting short-shrift following fires. Australia's average temperatures have risen 1.44oC, as extremes are skyrocketing, so we can expect more of the same. Meanwhile the logger's champion Joel Fitzgibbon has resigned from the ALP shadow cabinet because they may do something about climate change now that Joe Biden has been elected. In Tasmania Labor and Liberals are backing burning forests for electricity, while in America biomass plants have been closing because its just too expensive - of course they are crying for more subsidies. As genuine renewables become cheaper the arguments for transitioning strengthen. Though the mining boom associated with renewables is a growing threat to forests. Seeing virtual forest changes can change minds.

Dailan Pugh

Saving Blinky by Killing the Bill:

https://twitter.com/7NewsSydney/status/1326064041576468480

The state government's internal war over koala policy is threatening to erupt again. 7NEWS has learned a senior Liberal has warned she will oppose the peace deal with the @NSWNationals and may even cross the floor in parliament to vote against it.

The Daily Examiner 7 November 2020

https://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/false-premise-mp-disappointed-in-koala-sepp-pushba/4134276/?cspt=1604880864|597d5d10e24b566b87eb321ace2850a3

The NSW Nationals have made their position on koala protection legislation clear, and now the community is sending their message.

People from around the region gathered at Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh's office on Friday as part of co-ordinated action against new laws which North East Forest Alliance and other conservation groups said could set koala protection back years.

Bellingen Mayor Dominic King said the changes - which included exemptions for agriculture and privte native forestry (PNF) from the Koala SEPP - were all about "weakening koala protection across the state".

Discussing the demonstration, Mt. Singh said it was "disappointing" to see people protesting based on a "false premise" there were sweeping changes that would lead to worse outcomes for Koalas.

"This is actually maintaining the status quo for koala habitat and other species protections under the Local Land Services Act".

Coffs Coast National Parks Association president Kevin Evans disagreed, and said the bill undermined existing protections.

The bill includes a doubling of the allowable duration of PNF plans to 30 years and will prevent local councils from requiring development consent for PNF through local environment plans.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh went further saying the Bill represented a "total capitulation" to loggers and developers".

"These proposed changes are clearly intended to make the Koala SEPP ineffective and remove most of the hard won gains made over the past 25 years", he said.

Port Macquarie News 6 November 2020

ENVIRONMENT groups and concerned residents rallied in Port Macquarie today in a bid to urge the NSW government to consider the facts before debating legislation next week they believe will "remove most of the hard won gains made over the past 25 years".

Protests were held in Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Kempsey, Port Macquarie, Sydney, Taree and Tweed Heads.

"This is a despicable act from a government hell-bent on halving our rapidly diminishing populations of koalas, not doubling them," NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

At a silent vigil outside Mrs Williams' office in Port Macquarie, Susie Russell from NEFA was encouraged the MP opened her doors for a private meeting to listen to their concerns about the "anti-koala" legislation.

NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes was also in attendance.

"So agricultural, logging, all those things now happen without taking into account koalas. Considering the evidence presented to the koala inquiry, up to 85 per cent of this region's koalas died in the fires.

"To have a government not prepared to take steps to identify core koala habitat on private land and work out how it can be protected from damaging activities that are going to kill koalas is very disturbing.

"If you are going to hold a consultation, if you are going to hold an inquiry, if you are going to hold a review, the very least you can do is wait until those outcomes are in before you lock in, for example, logging legislation for another 30 years."

https://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/7005841/community-data-vital-to-koala-research/

The plight to save koala habitats and populations has become a hot issue in Port Stephens and now residents can take part in a data collection campaign which will assist preservation efforts.

Following the approval of the Brandy Hill quarry extension, which will see 52 hectares of koala habitat cleared, a citizen science initiative has been launched by the University of Newcastle which aims to capture a complete picture of the Port's koala population to "inform a koala monitoring program".

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/calls-grow-stop-nsw-nationals-koala-culling-bill

About 100 people rallied at Djarrbarrgalli (Domain) on November 6 as part of a week of action for koalas across New South Wales organised by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and NSW Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann.

Nicola Benyon from Humane Society International drew attention to the devastating fact that koalas could be extinct in NSW by 2050. He said the bill will only accelerate this extinction catastrophe. “It’s a selfish piece of legislation; it’s about self-interest and we hope that the NSW Liberal Party will wake up to the fact that the people of NSW want compassion and care and protection for koalas”. She also criticised the federal government for failing to take adequate action.

Nature Conservation Council spokesperson Chris Gambion criticised the NSW government for prioritising their “property developer mates” who want to clear vital koala habitats. He said the “koala bill” and changes to planning laws allows farmers to clear up to 25 metres of land beyond their fences in the name of bushfire safety.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/11/gladys-berejiklian-says-she-cant-recall-if-she-was-at-dinner-where-labor-claims-donations-were-made

Gladys Berejiklian has said she cannot remember whether she attended an “intimate fundraising dinner” at Club Taree in May 2018, where Labor claims illegal property donations were made.

The issue of donations from property developers to the Nationals was raised after the Nationals pushed the Coalition to water down the protections for koalas six weeks ago.

The push was driven by threats of a revolt by mid-north coast MPs, including Bromhead, and almost led to the dissolution of the Coalition.

The state environmental planning policy has now been altered to make the requirements less onerous for farmers and developers who might have koala habitat on their land.

Environmental groups, the Greens and even the Liberals’ own planning minister, Rob Stokes, accused the Nationals of misrepresenting the impact of the policy on farmers and accused the Nationals of arguing for the changes on behalf of regional developers.

And the Feds may belatedly do something for Koalas:

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/koala-protection-policy-to-target-habitat-conservation-and-research-20201107-p56cef.html

The federal government will unveil a koala protection package later this month which will include investment in habitat conservation and research.

Any measures to boost habitat protection or scientific research, both of which ecologists say is sorely needed, could make Ms Ley the first environment minister in nearly a decade to move to fill a void in the national conservation regime.

However, a one-off extension of three years is permitted and former environment minister Greg Hunt enacted this clause for the koala plan in 2015. But now, eight years on from the 2012 announcement, the recovery plan is two years overdue.

An analysis of government development approval registers by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that between 2010 and 2018 43,113 hectares of known koala habitat was cleared, excluding logging operations.

Based on the average koala population density in the various habitat types present in the areas cleared, WWF estimated that more than 1500 koalas were killed or displaced.

This year the federal government has allocated $3 million to koala hospitals, $3 million to restore habitat in south-east Queensland and north-east NSW, $3 million to major zoos for post bushfire animal recovery, and $15 million for projects in koala habitats.

A pox on both your houses:

https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/berejiklian-government-backs-koala-extinction-plan-for-campbelltown,14505

A hard-hitting, objective Fourth Estate would be calling for charges of crimes against nature to be laid at the doorsteps of the Morrison and Berejiklian Governments.    

Our wildlife is being wiped out. The Morrison and Berejiklian Governments are actively destroying Australia’s wildlife heritage.

In NSW, the latest extinction plan is focused on Campbelltown koalas, a population whose habitat spreads across the Greater Macarthur Growth Area, destined to be a huge metropolis.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that government funding will be focused on zoos and wildlife hospitals with no acquisition of habitat, the only solution which will allow koalas to survive.

A report just released by WWF ecologist Dr Martin Taylor demonstrates that weak enforcement of environmental laws over the past decade has permitted the destruction of tens of millions of native animals, including thousands of hectares of threatened species habitat.

The future of Australia’s iconic and unique wildlife must be elevated to the status of a national emergency. No country can afford such delinquent, irresponsible governments.

Greater Gliders are 3 species:

https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/28119/20201109/genetic-evidence-confirms-two-new-greater-glider-species.htm

The tiny sugar gliders have become an increasingly popular exotic house pet. Meanwhile, the two new species recently identified are greater gliders, the largest glider species endemic to Australia. Once common and abundant, the bushfires have greatly threatened their existence due to their specialized diet of eucalyptus leaves "and obligate dependence on mature trees with large hollows for shelter," wrote the authors.

Scientists described the two species in the journal Scientific Reports. Greater gliders have been generally identified as Petauroides volans. P. v. minor and P. v. volans has been listed as subspecies based on their body size, fur color, and geographic distribution.

Kara Youngentob from the Australian National University said that confirming the multiple greater glider species "reduces the previous widespread distribution of the original species." The lack of information on greater gliders raises more concerns in preserving the endangered species.

Rather, increased temperature due to climate change and tree clearing had affected the species. It is only in recent years that the bushfires have affected the habitat of greater gliders.

Youngentob added that this means that we barely know anything about the two newly identified species. "If we don't start working them out we could end up losing them."

https://phys.org/news/2020-11-discovery-triples-greater-glider-species.html

While Parma Wallabies are diminishing on the north coast, they still persist, though they are already being relegated to zoos.

https://www.theage.com.au/national/nsw/we-ve-got-to-bring-those-wallabies-back-how-a-species-was-saved-20201103-p56b1t.html

Mr Pigott, 84, has done more than any other person alive to ensure the survival of the parma wallaby, a miniature species that grows to little more than 50 centimetres, with a white band around its chubby neck, a stripe on its face and a rich brown coat of fur.

His private wildlife reserve in the Blue Mountains is home to 180 of the wallabies, along with various other native fauna.

To that end, he extended his property in Mount Wilson, built the enclosure and a caretaker's cottage and created a suitable ecosystem for their survival. The project has cost him about $1 million.

He is now concerned about what will become of the wallabies after his death. Their diet alone costs $20,000 per year and he also spends $8000 per year on rates, because his property falls below the 20-hectare threshold required for a conservation agreement.

Taronga Zoo's director of wildlife conservation, Nick Boyle, said scientists planned to do genetic testing on Mr Pigott's wallabies to improve the fitness and health of the parma wallaby generally, and that more large colonies needed to be established to ensure their survival.

In praise of Pardalotes

https://theconversation.com/friday-essay-in-praise-of-pardalotes-unique-birds-living-in-a-damaged-country-148921?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201785017320&utm_content=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201785017320+CID_fc72490d7251fd3814a611275c2eb3a5&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Friday%20essay%20in%20praise%20of%20pardalotes%20unique%20birds%20living%20in%20a%20damaged%20country

I’ve spent more of my life with pardalotes than with most other acquaintances. They are an obscure and odd group of four species of small (thumb-sized) birds.

They forage almost entirely in eucalypts, that linchpin and defining feature of many Australian environments. Their diet is unusual, comprising mostly the sweet exudate (manna) that seeps from eucalypt foliage, and “lerp”, the sugary coating of psyllid insects (a specialised group of bugs) that suck the phloem (the “sap” in leaves) from within that foliage.

Clearing has broken the continuity of the forests, rendering dispersal more hazardous. In little more than 200 years, about 40% of their forest home has been destroyed, directly causing a comparable proportional loss in their population size.

Pardalotes have other threats. Around 10% of their habitat was burned in the severe wildfires of 2019–20, with those fires most likely killing the birds directly, and leaving burned habitat unsuitable for their re-establishment for at least several years.

In many parts of their range, the manner in which we have degraded and fragmented their forest and woodland habitat has benefitted a small suite of aggressive honeyeaters – the native noisy miner and bell miner – and these miners can kill pardalotes and exclude them from otherwise suitable habitat.

We are corroding our nature and will pass on to our descendants a land that is less healthy, less diverse, less wonderful.

Dealing with fire impacts on fauna:

https://theconversation.com/3-billion-animals-were-in-the-bushfires-path-heres-what-the-royal-commission-said-and-shouldve-said-about-them-149429

The bushfire royal commission’s final report, released on October 30, recognised the gravity of the fires’ extraordinary toll on animals.

While these changes are welcome and necessary, they’re not sufficient. Minimising such catastrophic impacts on wildlife and livestock also means reducing their exposure to these hazards in the first place. And unless we develop more proactive strategies to protect threatened species from disasters, they’ll only become more imperilled.

While promising, the measures listed in the royal commission’s final report will only tweak a management system for wildlife already under stress. Current legal frameworks for protecting threatened species are reactive. By the time governments intervene, species have often already reached a turning point.

The commission also suggested natural hazards, such as fire, be counted as a “key threatening process” under national environment law. But it should be further amended to protect vulnerable species under threat from future stressors, such as disasters.

Cooking with gas:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/14/state-of-the-climate-five-big-issues-from-the-report-that-will-affect-every-australian

Since 1910, Australia has warmed by 1.44C and the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been accelerating.

In the 58 years from 1960 to 2018, there were only 24 days where the average maximum temperature across the whole continent hit 39C or higher.

In 2019 alone, there were 33 days.

According to the State of the Climate report, three quarters of those long-term undisturbed gauges show a drop in riverflows which, the report says, is “an indicator of long-term impacts from climate change”.

Less water flowing through rivers, Linterman says, means they heat up more and sediment tends to build up instead of being washed through.

“Permanent streams can become ephemeral, oxygen levels drop, sediment levels rise, water temperature goes up and the fish get smothered and cooked,” Lintermans says.

CO2 molecules have different chemical signatures depending on their origins, and Loh says that analysis shows the rise in atmospheric CO2 is being “overwhelmingly driven by fossil fuel emissions with some contribution from land clearing”.

As the State of the Climate report notes, eight of the 10 warmest years on record for the country’s oceans have occurred since 2010.

This, the report says, “has caused permanent impacts on marine ecosystem health, marine habitats and species”. The Great Barrier reef and Ningaloo Reef have both suffered.

But the area heating up the fastest is around the southeast and in the Bass Strait off Tasmania, where kelp forests have been disappearing.

Jaci Brown said globally, sea levels had risen by 25cm since 1880.

The logging industry praises their Federal ALP champion:

https://ausfpa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Media-Release-AFPA-commends-Fitzgibbon-for-his-leadership-on-forestry-and-rural-policy.pdf

The Australian Forest Products Association has thanked Joel Fitzgibbon for his commitment to forestry and regional communities during his extensive time as Shadow Minister for Agriculture.

“Mr Fitzgibbon has been a tremendous supporter of our sustainably managed forest industries and under his leadership the Federal Labor Party has recognised the importance and potential of the sector,” Mr Hampton said.

“Especially the native forest sector and those working in it. Something which, unfortunately, other parts of the Labor Party have at times under-valued.

AFPA has worked closely with Mr Fitzgibbon since 2013 when he was first appointed to the Agriculture and Forestry portfolios, and in his role as co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Forest Industries.

Zero emissions cheaper than thought

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/12/reaching-uk-net-zero-target-cheaper-than-we-thought-says-climate-adviser

Reaching net zero carbon emissions in the UK is likely to be much easier and cheaper than previously thought, and can be designed in such a way as to quickly improve the lives of millions of people, a senior adviser to the government has said.

Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, the UK’s independent statutory adviser, said costs had come down rapidly in recent years, and past estimates that moving to a low-carbon economy would cut trillions from GDP were wrong.

“Overall, the cost is surprisingly low – it’s cheaper than even we thought last year when we made our assessments. Net zero is relatively low-cost across the economy,” he said. “But that rests on action now. You can’t sit on your hands and imagine it’s just going to get cheaper by magic.”

Why are biomass plants being shut down?

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/could-biomass-reduce-risk-wildfires

The 1980s were the beginning of "biomass" — organic matter from forest floors — being used to generate electricity at utility-scale through power-purchase agreements (PPAs). These were often 20-30 year contracts between biomass plants and utility companies with agreed pricing. This revenue resulted in the construction of 66 power plants with aggregate operating capacity nearing 1,000 megawatts. Today, only 22 plants remain with 532 MW capacity across 17 counties. This is enough to convert 7.3 million tons of wood waste into electricity. 

Economics is a large reason for the mass shuttering of these plants. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the levelized cost of electricity for new generation capacity with a targeted date of service of 2025 is $33/MWh for solar, $40/MWH for wind and $95/MWh for biomass, compared to $67/MWh for a natural gas combustion turbine. 

When the PPAs came back around for renegotiation, SoCal Edison and PG&E were unwilling to extend, as the economics were not strong enough to be competitive.

Golden State Natural Resources, a public benefit not-for-profit corporation, has reached a 20-year agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to have access to certain federal timberland for the purpose of removing low-value biomass and converting it to useful products including fuel for power generation. If this program is successful, up to 10 million tons per year of low-value biomass could be removed from the forest. 

Few incentives, coupled with lack of skilled labor, experience and knowledge, leaves the entire ecosystem of biomass at a disadvantage ... Insurance carriers find this sort of business challenging to write and prefer other renewable technologies, namely ones with subsidies. 

... Labor and Liberals support burning forests:

https://tasmps.greens.org.au/media-release/liberals-labor-leave-door-open

The Liberal and Labor parties have united to allow native forest biomass to be classified a future renewable energy source in lutruwita/Tasmania. 
 
Despite the warnings of leading scientists, and a concrete precedent elsewhere in Australia, Labor and the Liberals have voted against the Greens’ amendment to explicitly exclude native forest biomass to be classified as ‘renewable energy’.

Mining for renewables a growing threat to world's forests:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/11/as-energy-needs-drive-demand-for-minerals-forests-face-greater-threats/

  • Rising demand for energy, especially from renewable sources, looks set to increase pressure on the world’s forests, as many of minerals used in solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage are mined in sensitive forest areas.
  • A World Bank concept called “forest-smart mining” claims to mitigate the negative impacts of mining on forests, but given the complex nature of the extractive industries, its real-life applicability has come into question.
  • While poor governance is often the biggest challenge to efficient forest management, experts emphasize that only a radical reflection of human energy consumption can bring real change.

Mining and deforestation go hand in hand, with impacts that include displacement of species and pollution of water sources. A 2012 study attributed only 7% of global forest loss to mining, and the vast majority, nearly 73%, to subsistence farming and industrial agriculture such as cultivation of oil palms and soybeans, and cattle ranching.

A recent research paper published by the U.K. policy think tank Chatham House ...

“Up to one-third of the world’s forests may already be affected by mining with regions such as the Amazon, the Congo Basin and Southeast Asia at particular risk,” writes Siân Bradley, who authored the report. “While mining is not always a primary direct driver of deforestation and forest degradation, its indirect and cumulative forest impacts can be significant.”

Nguiffo told Mongabay that the World Bank’s approach is reminiscent of the promises made when the logging industry was seen as the new way forward for Central African governments.

“We have been saying for a long time that logging can happen without harming the forest — and it proved to be not true. It also didn’t develop the economies,” he said. For mining, he said he expects the same outcomes.

These observations are confirmed by data visualized by the Global Forest Watch Forest Atlas, which monitors tree cover loss around the globe and shows a striking amount of mining concessions overlapping with intact forest landscapes throughout the Congo Basin. The region is home to the largest tract of rainforest on Earth after the Amazon, and the single largest peatland area in the world.

The trend has already started. A fifth of the Congo Basin’s tree cover constitutes intact forest landscape, as defined in the Intact Forest Landscapes map, developed by the University of Maryland, the World Resources Institute, Greenpeace and Transparent World. But a study by WWF found that 16% of these IFLs overlap with 998 mining claims, and 26% with 27 oil and gas concessions.

Jutta Kill, from the World Rainforest Movement, called the World Bank’s campaign an act of greenwashing. She cited the example of biodiversity offsets like the one that mining giant Rio Tinto applied in Madagascar to illustrate that “the idea that the extractive industries can be sustainable or forest-smart is an illusion.”

In light of what the World Bank calls “a mineral-intensive future,” the Cameroonian lawyer said there are important choices to be made: “We need to decide what we want to do with our forests: If we continue to pretend that all industrial activities can be done without harming the forest, it will prove not true and we are going to see a disaster.”

Seeing virtual forest changes minds:

https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/28190/20201113/virtual-reality-wisconsin-forest-takes-strollers-2050.htm

Traditional methods of presenting global warming and its consequences include photos, graphs, maps, and satellite images. In a recent study published in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science, a group of geographers describes their virtual reality forest.

What the team offers is an immersive experience of a future forest by combining virtual reality with ecological and procedural modeling, they wrote in the study.

The virtual Wisconsin forest brings people to what it would look like today until 2050. Walking through the forest, viewers would see the types of trees, their understory, and how they've changed because of climate change.


Forest Media 6 November 2020

We did well with our Kill the Bill demonstrations today, with good stories on Prime and NBN, though the National Party's standard response is that we are ignorant and misguided. Bangalow Koalas also organised a successful event with 50 kids from the Byron Community Primary School. The hypocrisy of Gladys granting 0.06 ha to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital at the same time the Feds backed up her Government's decision to clear 50ha for a quarry at Port Stephens was noticed. Finding a collective noun for Koalas may not be an issue soon, when a zoo will do. Paddy Manning gives a detailed summary of forest issues in southern Australia, highlighting its economic absurdity. Millers want a domestic reservation policy for plantation timber, so they should be happy with China's ban.

The Bushfire Royal Commission's finding that climate heating exists, and is getting worse, caused a flurry of inaction. Our bushfires injected a smoke cloud 35km into the stratosphere that travelled 66,000 km over 3 months - at least it cooled the earth. You may hope that Deloite Access Economics' assessment that continued inaction on climate change will cost us more than $3 trillion over the next 50 years would be listened too.

Meanwhile record fires, droughts and introduced pests continue to devastate forests around the world. Despite reafforestation commitments we continue to clear them and reduce logging rules to obtain dwindling timber. True to form the Morrison Government has asked for 5 Australian Biosphere Reserves to be delisted. The benefits of forest bathing are being increasingly recognised in the unfolding apocalypse.

The likely defeat of the meglomaniacal Trump (assuming his coup fails) ) heralds a far better future for action on climate chaos and environmental care, leaving Morrison increasingly isolated.

Dailan

NEFA weren't the only ones trying to kill the bill today:

https://www.winghamchronicle.com.au/story/6998929/environment-groups-join-to-protest-koala-legislation-in-taree/

Local environment groups are joining forces to hold a protest in Taree on Friday, November 6.

Midcoast Knitting Nannas, Extinction Rebellion Midcoast, North East Forest Alliance and Save Bulga Forest say the theme of the protest is 'Koala protection is going backwards' and they are protesting the weakening of bushland and koala protections legislation.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/kids-for-koalas-in-byron/

This morning saw around 50 kids from the Byron Community Primary School up to the age of nine out in Byron making their voices heard in support of koalas.

‘We should look after koala habitat because they need a home just like us,’ said Mimi, aged 7. This was supported by Tommy, aged 8, who said ‘koalas need trees to live and the trees also clean the air for us!’

‘I think it’s important that we do not cut down eucalyptus trees because that’s the only habitat they can live in.’ Willow 7

‘We should stop destroying koala land because it’s alive like us.’ Bodhi 7

‘We urge people to email members of the Legislative Council in the Upper House and voice your concern now.’

https://www.goulburnpost.com.au/story/7002125/politicians-hypocrisy-is-a-bigger-issue-than-koalas/

In the face of widespread criticism, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who had overseen these failed polices and increased land clearing and development where koalas live, announced that she wanted to be "known as the Premier who saved the koala".

Well it WAS pretty simple after all. Basically you identify areas where koalas are known to live and breed, and protect the trees they use. A new koala State Environment Planning policy was put in place.

While publicly acting as though she had stood up to the National Party leader, it wasn't long before the Premier agreed on a compromise. It's the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020. It contradicts all previous public statements by the Premier, and will reduce current protections for koalas, and see MORE of their homes cleared in NSW.

The same old routine of say one thing publicly, then do another. Introduce one policy to media applause, then undermine with country polices and exemptions.

Repercussions of Koala killing spree spread:

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6992497/why-a-good-outcome-for-koalas-is-no-ley-down-misere/

Hanson, the quarry operator, has now satisfied all the regulatory licenses to go ahead and clear critical koala habitat. But do they have the social license to operate? A social license for Brandy Hill can only be achieved once the project has the ongoing approval and broad acceptance of the local, national and international community.

Minister Ley's decision to approve the project could signify to the international community that the Australian federal government does not really value koalas. This comes at a time when our most respected naturalist, Sir David Attenborough has said: "We should be in no doubt. Biodiversity loss, the destruction of nature, is as grave an issue as climate change. They both work together to destabilise the world we rely upon".

Many people say this project does not pass the pub test, and for me personally, I drink at this pub. If you had seen what I have in my research, you'd know we don't have that many koalas left. If you had walked through Port Stephens listening for the call of a male koala as I have, you would understand why this decision was gut-wrenching. If you ask Save Port Stephens Koalas, or other conservation scientists, clearing koala habitat will always fail the pub test

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/quarry-wins-federal-ministers-decision-at-brandy-hill-while-community-vows-to-fight-on-60859

The public outcry to the quarry expansion decision has inspired local action groups to continue campaigning and are currently working on strategies to stop the loss of this koala habitat.

Chantal Paslow, a key local spokesperson for the Save Port Stephens Koalas campaign, told News Of The Area, “The Minister has chosen rocks over koalas.

“This fight isn’t over yet, we have commenced a petition on change.org.

https://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/6990042/brandy-hill-koala-campaigners-vow-to-fight-on/

https://www.marieclaire.com.au/koala-habitat-destroyed-port-stephens

“The minister’s statement says this area didn’t burn—that’s the whole point. This is koala habitat,” Parslow Redman said. “This just shows that nothing will stop this government from destroying koala habitat.

“It’s a heartbreaking decision," she added. 

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6991908/without-a-breeding-program-koala-extinction-will-be-sooner-rather-than-later-port-stephens-koalas/

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/sussan-leys-approval-of-quarry-development-set-to-destroy-koala-habitat,14483

IN WHAT MUST SURELY be the most egregious act of hypocrisy, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian gifted Port Macquarie Koala Hospital with 6,000 square metres of land to help the hospital expand.

The same day, as a result of her government fast-tracking approval of the Brandy Hill Quarry Expansion Project in Port Stephens, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley approved the development.

The reality of koala survival in NSW is becoming grimmer every day. Every square foot of koala habitat needs to be protected if koalas are to survive in the state. 

Koalas are going extinct now. The species is dying by inches as one inappropriate development after another is given the go-ahead by state and federal governments.

Meantime, back in Berejiklian’s corner, Deputy Premier John Barilaro has described koalas as “tree rats” according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. As Minister for the Department of Resources, logging of koala habitat continues in spite of massive public protest.

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/6995634/protesting-the-states-koala-kill-bill/

So, Gladys comes to town to gift the Koala Hospital the land it currently occupies.

While she is being photographed, State Forest continue to decimate habitat that survived bushfires, quarry expansions into koala habitat proceed and her team rush the Koala Kill Bill through Parliament, for a vote in the Upper House next week.

So, one day, a multi-million dollar Koala Hospital might be the only place to see a koala.

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/6995641/koala-extinction-now-more-likely/

Changes made to the Koala Habitat Protection State Environmental Plan (SEPP) and a local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill were passed in the NSW Legislative Assembly, (the Lower house) this week and will be put before the Upper House in November. These changes were demanded by the State National Party and overturn laws and regulations designed to increase protections for declining Koala populations here on the Mid North Coast.

The laws and policies needed tightening not relaxing. The government is taking us backwards many decades, to extremely weak and ineffective regulation, well short of providing the protections needed for koalas.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/11/land-clearing-rule-threatens-koala-habitat/

According to analysis undertaken by WWF and the office of Independent NSW MLC Justin Field, a mapping analysis of the NSW Government’s plan to allow rural landholders to clear 25 metre fire breaks around properties, threatens tens of thousands of hectares of bushland on the NSW North Coast, including significant areas of koala habitat.

Mr Field said the analysis, conducted in four local Government areas across the state including the Clarence, Port Stephens, Shoalhaven and Wollondilly, showed more than 44,000 hectares were at risk, including almost 12,000 hectares of known koala habitat. ‘This analysis implies that hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland will be at risk across the state as a result of this policy. 

‘The Government has indicated it will bring legislation to Parliament in November to implement the changes.  

‘It looks to me that this is just the latest in an anti-science ideological response from some in the Government who are taking advantage of the bushfire crisis to push their agenda to clear more land. 

What to call a horde of Koalas?:

https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/a-koallective-noun-for-koalas-a-torpor-a-caramelli-a-barilaro-20201026-p568le.html

Koalas, on the other hand, well … that’s it. There is no word. Kangaroos have mobs, foxes have skulks, but koalas: the cupboard is bare.

Robina Dwyer highlighted this vacuum, writing to say, “There are collective nouns for almost all animals and I see no reason for koalas to miss out. With this in mind, may I suggest a cuddle would be appropriate.”

Yet early colonial journals spent more time quibbling over how to spell the Dharug word, the Anglo-manglings ranging from koolah to cullawine, just as the animal itself was dubbed a native bear, an Australian monkey (or sloth) and Billy Bluegum.

... Doze, for one, was another hit, honouring the leaf-muncher’s lethargy, in league with torpor, inertia, repose, session (‘'because they’re stoned during waking hours'’), kip and coma.

Koma too was tendered, the improvised K popular among responses, appearing in kollection, kuddle, koalaboration and koalition. ...

Barilaro was another eponym, a wink at NSW’s National Party leader, John Barilaro, who’d lobbied in September for more logging inroads, despite several areas being valued as prime koala habitat.

Paddy Manning gives a detailed summary of forest issues in southern Australia:

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2020/november/1604149200/paddy-manning/coupe-de-gr-ce

The Imlay Road twists inland from the southern coast of New South Wales, between Eden and the Victorian border, through a string of state forests: Timbillica, Yambulla, Nungatta. As on many stretches of highway in 2020, the landscape is thoroughly depressing. For more than 50 kilometres, panic growth blurs blackened trunks and limbs as far as the eye can see – a reminder of the flame heights that terrified residents and firefighters through Australia’s horrific Black Summer bushfires. To the casual observer, the epicormic shoots are a sign the trees are alive. To the trained eye, the shoots show what stress the trees are under – a silent green shriek. Recovery will be slow, and is far from assured.

According to federal government figures, NSW lost 880,000 hectares, or 47 per cent of the native forest managed by the state’s Forestry Corporation, along with a quarter of its plantation estate. In the worst-hit area, the South Coast, more than 80 per cent of state forest marked for timber production was fire-affected, much of it heavily. ... In the state’s native forests nowadays, says Australian National University forest ecologist, professor David Lindenmayer, “the worst-kept secret in the industry is that there’s no timber left”.

The forestry agencies in both states appear to have badly misjudged the public mood, encountering staunch resistance from activists and residents determined to protect what was left – burnt and unburnt alike. In Victoria, protesters shut down logging across seven state forestry coupes, from Mount Cole in the west to Lakes Entrance in the east. “In a climate emergency, we feel it’s time to transition [into plantation logging] and protect what native forests we have left,” said local spokesperson Nic Fox.

In NSW, the state’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) imposed strict new requirements for post-fire logging, stipulating all giant or hollow-bearing trees must be protected, but reports of breaches quickly emerged. At the Mogo and South Brooman state forests, near Batemans Bay on the South Coast, local citizen scientists recorded well over 100 breaches of the new code of practice, taking legally admissible geotagged photos.

[Eden woodchip mill owner] As he surveyed the fire damage in January, McComb told The Australian there would be a short-term glut of burnt wood, and the longer-term future of forestry in the region required a rethink. “This is a watershed event in terms of forest management in Australia,” he said. “It looks like the entire resource has been wiped out.”

Five months later, McComb hosted Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Eden mill, where Morrison announced some $50 million in funding for the timber industry, including infrastructure grants of up to $5 million. October’s federal budget lifted post-bushfire forestry industry assistance to $65 million.

To get its message out, Pentarch has set up a charitable organisation, Forest and Wood Communities Australia (FWCA), ostensibly to represent timber workers. FWCA is active on Facebook sharing pro-forestry, pro-gun and pro-Trump memes, but with just over 500 followers, the group looks like an astroturf-marketing operation. McComb is a director but will not speak on its behalf.

Forestry has taken a hit from COVID and bushfire, but the industry was already staring at decline. According to a September report by business consultancy IBISWorld, revenue and profits from forestry and logging have fallen by 1 per cent and 7 per cent per annum respectively over the past five years. The sector has a $4.7 billion turnover and employs some 10,100 people directly, but has shed 4000 jobs over the past decade, and the number of enterprises has more than halved. Corporatised state government forestry agencies are the dominant players, alongside a few big private plantation managers, such as Boston-based Hancock. There has been a long-run shift to plantations: native-forest logging now accounts for roughly 15 per cent of industry revenue.

A subsequent state parliamentary inquiry warned this year that koalas were on track to become extinct in NSW by 2050, but a planning policy designed to stop habitat clearing nearly blew up the state Coalition government in September. A compromise was reached, which did away with contentious maps of koala habitat and allowed private land clearing. Animals for Australia is now building a case, although NSW’s Forestry Corporation can’t be sued by third parties as VicForests was.

Field says the native forestry industry was barely making money before the fires, is facing a wood-supply crisis and is almost certainly unprofitable, despite ongoing public subsidies. “It’s a loss-making business,” he says. “It’s costing us, and there’s not that many jobs in it either. If we re-imagine the future of these forests, as ecological reserves, as recreational reserves, even some commercial development to take the pressure off commercial development in national parks, that’s many more jobs, particularly for regional communities”. Field points out that low-cost carbon abatement could be achieved by allowing our state forests to mature. “If you want to hit net zero emissions by 2050 in NSW, and take the pressure off other industry sectors, stopping native-forest logging is one of the best ways to do it.”

From the environment movement has come a new determination to end native-forest logging altogether. But the forestry industry has bipartisan support, and the Greens were on their own in August when they introduced a Senate motion calling on the federal government to immediately protect all high-conservation value forests in the wake of the VicForests case. 

The federal assistant minister for forestry is Jonathon Duniam, an ex-staffer of arch conservative Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz. Duniam recently claimed in the Senate that the environmental movement would not stop “until the last chainsaw falls silent”. Today it was native-forest harvesting, he warned, but tomorrow it would be plantations. Not one Greens politician or conservationist I have spoken with has called for an end to plantation forestry.

In some forest types it can take 60 to 100 years before a tree gets to sawlog age. With bushfire risk increasing, there is now an 80 per cent chance that trees will be burned before they reach maturity, says David Lindenmayer. He compares native forest logging with overfishing, as an industry spiralling down the value chain – in forestry’s case, from taking high-value species to ever-lower-grade timber suitable only for use as woodchip or (the worst fear of conservationists) burning as biomass. There could be far more jobs in saving forests – letting them mature and managing them to reduce fire risk, produce clean air and water, store carbon, protect endangered species and be enjoyed by tourists – than there are in cutting them down. “All we’re talking about here is the ideology of continuing to log native forests,” he says. There may be a need for a small proportion of native forest to be harvested for high-value uses such as furnishing and construction, but the days of sending the vast bulk of native timber off to be woodchipped are surely coming to an end. The Black Summer fires have changed the debate about native-forest logging, and there are worse fires to come as the planet heats up. From here on in – whether burnt or unburnt, old growth or regrowth – every patch of native forest matters.

Plantation and job losses raised at inquiry:

https://tatimes.com.au/timber-industry-future-probed-at-inquiry/

A public hearing of the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources inquiry into timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector took place on October 23.

Chair of the Committee, Rick Wilson MP, said that the evidence they’ve heard so far is that accessing product is getting harder and harder.

“Obviously here particularly, in Tumut, we’ve got an issue with the fires, which has created a very dire short-term prospect,” he acknowledged. 

... I guess the existing mills are getting fewer and fewer as the capital requirement gets bigger.”

[CEO of AKD Softwoods Shane Vicary] ... “There will be 70 to 80 jobs lost sometime between now and probably June or July next year, when the harvest level reduces. That’s an outcome from the bushfires,” he said. 

... Sawmills have had to get larger to scale up to reduce their processing costs and be able to compete with export pricing.”

“That’s what I would like to see—some form of mechanism that enables free market to work but ensures that we look after Australia’s domestic supply chain first and foremost, but that it doesn’t impinge on the rights of the commercial owner of the plantation.”

https://borderwatch.com.au/news/2020/11/06/call-for-royal-commission/

A ROYAL Commission into the sale of the South East forests is key to understanding the current log export issues, a parliamentary committee into the timber industry has heard.

The Legislative Council committee toured the region on a two-day trip this week as part of an inquiry on issues relating to the timber industry in the Limestone Coast.

At a hearing, veteran forestry consultant Jerry Leech said the committee was likely to conclude the problems underpinning the inquiry are with the clauses in the sale contract, which has never been made public.

 “With the lease it is very obvious in my mind there are very obvious forestry management type flaws in the lease.

Doctors call for forest protection:

https://tasmps.greens.org.au/media-release/greens-welcome-doctors-call-end

The Greens welcome the call by 250 doctors and medical students to end native forest logging in lutruwita/Tasmania. It is a critical step in tackling the climate emergency, and protecting the health of Tasmanians. 

Climate change is a health emergency – as has been made clear by the Australian Medical Association and eight national medical college bodies. The doctors who signed the letter to the Premier understand all too well how intrinsically linked the health of the planet and its people are.

Bushfires fan the flames of climate action:

https://time.com/5904762/australia-bushfires-climate-change-report/

The bushfires that scorched vast tracts of Australia in late 2019 and early 2020 were just a glimpse of what’s to come as global temperatures rise, a landmark report made public on Friday warned.

“Australia will have more hot days and fewer cool days. Sea levels are also projected to continue to rise,” the inquiry, led by a former chief of the Australian Defense Force, a former federal court judge and a climate policy expert, found. “Tropical cyclones are projected to decrease in number, but increase in intensity. Floods and bushfires are expected to become more frequent and more intense.”

But Morrison has argued that there is no direct link between Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and the severity of the fires. “To suggest that with just 1.3% of global emissions, that Australia doing something differently, more or less, would have changed the fire outcome this season,” he told an Australian radio station,

That ignores the fact that Australia is one of the highest per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, according to Climate Analytics, an advocacy group that tracks climate data. It is also one of the world’s leading exporters of coal. Accounting for fossil fuel exports increases the country’s footprint to about 5% of global emissions, equivalent to the world’s fifth largest emitter, according to Climate Analytics.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-31/bushfire-royal-commission-final-report-a-stark-warning/12835096

The bushfire royal commission's final report is a stark warning of a future marked by extreme weather impacts of climate change.

"Extreme weather has already become more frequent and intense because of climate change; further global warming over the next 20 to 30 years is inevitable," they say.

"Catastrophic fire conditions may render traditional bushfire prediction models and firefighting techniques less effective," they say.

The report notes there's essentially nothing we can do about "locked in" warming set to occur over the next two decades.

But what happens after that is up to us. Warming "beyond the next 20 to 30 years is largely dependent on the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions", it says.

"The Bushfire Royal Commission has laid out the facts in no uncertain terms: climate change drove the Black Summer bushfires, and climate change is pushing us into a future of unprecedented bushfire severity," said Greg Mullins, former commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW and founder of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action.

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/bushfire-royal-commission-warns-of-catastrophic-consequences-of-climate-change/

Australia has warmed by approximately 1.4°C since 1910.

The commission says that the 2019–20 fires started in Australia’s hottest and driest year on record. Much of the country that burned had already been impacted by drought and the forest fire danger index was the highest since national records began.

‘We heard from CSIRO that even under the low emissions scenario, which goes to net negative emissions, the climate does not return to a preindustrial or recent baseline type climate immediately’, the commission says. ‘It takes a very long time for that to occur, and would require CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere.’

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/01/born-in-the-ice-age-humankind-now-faces-the-age-of-fire-and-australia-is-on-the-frontline

As if neglect and omission in the face of the fire threat were not enough, Coalition politicians and their apologists then hastily encouraged lies about the causes of the fires, declaring that they were started by arsonists and that greenies had prevented hazard-reduction burns. Yet these fires were overwhelmingly started by dry lightning in remote terrain, and hazard-reduction burning is constrained by a warming climate. The effort to stymie sensible policy reform after the fires was as pernicious as the failure to plan in advance of them.

For the beleaguered Coalition government, Covid seemed to provide the escape it wanted from climate politics.

The fires and the plague are both symptoms of something momentous that is unfolding on Earth: a concentration and acceleration of the impact of humans on nature. As the environmental scientists Inger Andersen and Johan Rockström argued in June: “Covid-19 is more than an illness. It is a symptom of the ailing health of our planet.”

Doing something about it means more than finding a vaccine; it means urgently addressing the causes of the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis. It means understanding how dire the current rupture is in the long-term relationship between humans and nature.

https://architectureau.com/articles/bushfire-royal-commission-institue-response/

The Australian Institute of Architects has called on governments to act urgently following the public release of the bushfire royal commission report.

The Institute’s submission to the royal commission highlighted research that suggests up to a million existing houses in bushfire prone areas across Australia have little or no bushfire protection, with 2.2 million people living in high or extreme bushfire risk areas.

“This means we need to consider other approaches like the use of private and public shelters, such as they have done for decades in the United States as protection from hazards like wildfires and tornadoes,” Bell said.

The Institute also reiterated a call on the government to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 ...

Cambage said, “Resilience must include a commitment to net zero emissions in our buildings and responsiveness to our new climate reality because it is critically important to ensure that all rebuilding projects following natural disasters look to enhance the standard of our built environment.

... how fires mitigate climate change:

https://yubanet.com/scitech/smoke-cloud-pushed-into-the-stratosphere-by-last-winters-australian-wildfires-was-3-times-larger-than-anything-previously-recorded/

... a global team that has found that the smoke cloud pushed into the stratosphere by last winter’s Australian wildfires was three times larger than anything previously recorded.

The cloud, which measured 1,000 kilometres across, remained intact for three months, travelled 66,000 kilometres, and soared to a height of 35 kilometres above Earth. The findings were published in Communications Earth & Environment,

“We’re seeing records broken in terms of the impact on the atmosphere from these fires,” said Bourassa. “Knowing that they’re likely to strike more frequently and with more intensity due to climate change, we could end up with a pretty dramatically changed atmosphere.”

However, when aerosols—such as smoke from wildfires or sulphuric acid from a volcanic eruption—are forced up into the stratosphere, they can remain aloft for many months, blocking sunlight from passing through, which in turns changes the balance of the climate system.

https://wildfiretoday.com/2020/11/01/smoke-cloud-from-australias-wildfires-was-three-times-larger-than-anything-previously-recorded/

... money talks, and a $3.7 billion cost shouts:

https://www.financialstandard.com.au/news/climate-change-greater-threat-than-covid-report-176228777

Climate change is set to have a greater impact on the economy than the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a new report from Deloitte Access Economics.

The report, A new choice: Australia's climate for growth, found if climate change goes unchecked, Australia's economy will be 6% smaller and have 880,000 fewer jobs by 2070.

However, in contrast, delivering net zero by 2050 and consistent with keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, could add $680 billion and grow the economy by 2.6% in 2070.

"All of these numbers are sobering. By 2050 Australia will experience economic losses on par with COVID every single year if we don't address climate change. That would compromise the economic future of all future generations of Australians," Philip said.

"Whatever Australia does or doesn't do, the global warming which has already taken place will hurt our lives and livelihoods. This cost is locked in - it is the cost of delay," Philip said.

https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6206257994001

https://reneweconomy.com.au/australia-faces-3-4-trillion-economic-bill-for-failure-to-act-on-climate-change-41179/

https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/wrap-021020-204741533.html

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-02/australian-economy-lose-$3-trillion-climate-change-inaction/12837244

The Australian economy will lose more than if climate change is not addressed, according to a new report from Deloitte Access Economics.

https://thenewdaily.com.au/finance/finance-news/2020/11/02/climate-change-economy-deloitte/

... as the world continues to burn:

https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/eu-affairs/138624/over-400000-ha-of-forests-lost-to-fire-in-2019/

Over 400,000 ha. of forests were destroyed by fire in 2019, the worst year the world has known in recent times in terms of such disasters, the European Commission’s joint research centre noted in a report released on Friday.

The report, which provides an inventory of the devastation wrought by forest fires in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, notes that a record number of protected natural areas were affected throughout the European Union in 2019.

“Part of the answer to ensure that this does not happen at such a devastating scale lies in protecting and managing the forests in a way to reduce their vulnerability to fires, allowing nature to also protect itself,” Sinkevicius stressed.

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1995

Droughts are altering forests:

https://cosmosmagazine.com/uncategorized/how-droughts-affect-forests/

High on the list of the threats forests face due to climate change is tree mortality following droughts, which are becoming longer and more severe.

This could trigger extensive ecosystem changes according to an international team of nearly 40 scientists, writing in the journal PNAS.

Overall, they found limited regrowth of key forest and woodland species. Just 21% of pre-drought trees grew back and 10% of forests and woodlands shifted to non-woody growth such as grasslands.

In more than two thirds of sites, dead trees were replaced mostly by shrubs, “pointing to important post-drought alterations of ecosystem structure and function”.

In 10% of sites there was no replacement by woody vegetation, which the authors say suggests “at least a transient loss of forest and woodland cover promoted by drought-related mortality”.

Tree species that resprout, such as cottonwoods (Populus spp), eucalypts (Eucalyptus spp) and oaks (Quercus spp), more successfully replaced themselves than trees that rely on seeds to propagate, such as pine trees (Pinus spp) and fir trees (Abies spp).

Ecosystems dominated by trees that favour moist conditions, for instance, showed shifts towards more drought tolerant plants. ... Corymbia calophylla superseding Eucalyptus marginate in Australia.

“The ultimate temporal persistence of such changes remains unknown,” they write, “but, given the key role of biological legacies in long-term ecological succession, this emerging picture of post-drought ecological trajectories highlights the potential for major ecosystem reorganisation in the coming decades.”

https://phys.org/news/2020-11-summer-one-tenth-central-european-forests.html

The result: Trees suffered most in warm, dry regions, where it was even hotter and drier than the long-term average, especially if they tended to be small to medium-sized and stood on steep terrain and shallow soils. In future, such locations and tree characteristics can thus be classified as risk factors for drought damage

In the summer of 2018, central Europe experienced its most extreme period of drought and heat wave since measurements began. It has had a greater impact on forests than any other dry spell in the last 60 years. "If such events occur more frequently, beech and spruce will probably have difficulty surviving in the longer term in the regions affected in 2018," says study leader Niklaus Zimmermann

We are super spreaders:

https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/ash-dieback-grim-toll-english-forests-national-trust-750671

Ash dieback is devastating forests across England, with the National Trust this week warning it will have to fell thousands of dead trees this winter for public safety.  

Ash trees make up about 20 per cent of woodland in Britain, but up to 90 per cent of these trees could be lost in the next 30 years to the disease. The fungal disease, which arrived in Europe from Asia about 30 years ago, causes the leaves of a tree to drop off and the crown to die back, eventually causing the death of the tree.  

The good news, he said, is that older Ash trees appear to be more resilient to the disease, with felling largely confined to younger trees planted in the 1990s.  

https://www.miragenews.com/emerald-ash-borer-puts-trees-on-path-to-functional-extinction/

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —Since the emerald ash borer’s introduction to the United States at the beginning of the 21st century, forest ecologists and government officials have striven to stem its destruction of ash forests. Despite those efforts, the invasive pest may be winning the war. 

Mining 16 years of U.S. Forestry Service Forest Inventory Analysis data for 960 counties, Purdue University professor Songlin Fei has shown that in impacted areas, young trees are dying before they can reach their reproductive stages. Unable to compete with larger trees or resist the emerald ash borer, American ash trees may be doomed to functional extinction.

The Penan still battling to save their dwindling forests:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/malaysias-indigenous-people-seek-to-protect-forests/90124#

Intensive forest clearing has caused an ecological disaster in the Malaysian state of Sarawak where both numerous critically endangered species and indigenous ways of life are at risk of disappearing for good unless all large-scale deforestation ceases in already badly fragmented and much-thinned forests.

“[Further] logging will destroy our forests,” Komeok Joe, a leader of an indigenous semi-nomadic ethnic group known as the Penan, has warned in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“It will destroy our rivers and medicines and prevent us from satisfying all of our needs in the forests on which we depend for our lives. We Penan communities reject any logging activities in our Baram territory,” he added.

https://www.sustainability-times.com/environmental-protection/indigenous-people-on-borneo-seek-to-save-their-forests-from-loggers/

“A century ago, most of Borneo was covered in forest. But the region has lost over half of its forests, and a third of these have disappeared in just the last three decades,” the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) explains.

“Only half of Borneo’s forest cover remains today, down from 75 per cent in the mid-1980s. With a current deforestation rate of 1.3 million hectares per year, only peat and montane forests would survive in the coming years,” the WWF warns.

We know what to do to save ourselves, and some have committed to do it (not Trump or Morrison) , but its not happening fast enough:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/rewilded-farmland-can-save-money-%e2%88%92-and-the-earth/

Global salvation requires the world’s nations to do simply what they have already undertaken to do: restore 15% of cultivated land to natural forest, grassland, shrubland, wetland and desert ecosystem.

If such restoration happened in the highest priority zones, then almost two-thirds of the wild things now threatened with imminent extinction could survive.

And the restored wilderness that would protect them would also start absorbing atmospheric carbon at an accelerating rate: it could sequester an estimated 229 billion tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). This is almost a third of all the CO2 spilled into the atmosphere by coal, oil and gas combustion in the last 200 years.

All that would be possible if the world’s nations delivered on vows made 10 years ago in Japan, to restore 15% of ecosystems worldwide. If the 196 nations that signed up went further, and restored a carefully chosen 30%, they could save more than 70% of the million or so species sliding towards extinction, and absorb 465 billion tonnes of CO2: almost half of all the extra atmospheric carbon loaded into the atmosphere by human societies since the Industrial Revolution.

Researchers have repeatedly argued that simply planting more trees could have a dramatic impact on global heating; that a switch towards a plant-based diet could help stem biodiversity loss and reduce emissions; and that without concerted global action, precious ecosystems could collapse altogether.

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/11/rewilding-key-to-averting-mass-extinctions-and-reducing-carbon-emissions/

An international team led by Brazilian researchers recently published a study in the journal Nature showing that restoring habitats that are currently degraded by agricultural activity is key to mitigating climate change impacts and avoiding animal species extinction.

This research sounds the alarm for policymakers and citizens at a time when the world is entering the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration starting next year as defined by the United Nations, ...

Durigan told Mongabay that “it is important to heal Earth’s wounds where they are deepest, where natural areas are degraded the most and where there is more pollution and water scarcity — and these areas do not always match with what the study found.” The areas Durigan highlights are mostly in the global north. Restoring areas at fountainheads and riverbeds are of special importance for the maintenance of water in volume and quality, but this isn’t mentioned in the study, she adds.

Recovering forest areas is crucial to mitigating the effects of climate change, but many forest areas in priority regions such as Brazil are seeing their areas shrink instead of expanding.

... meanwhile in America:

https://www.upi.com/Science_News/2020/11/05/Widest-trees-dominate-carbon-storage-in-Pacific-Northwest-forests/3481604590475/

Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Proposed amendments to a 1994 law preventing the logging of trees with diameters greater than 21 inches could undermine the protection of the region's largest trees.

New research, published Thursday in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, suggest the widest trees dominate carbon storage in the forests of Oregon and Washington State.

When scientists surveyed the population of wide-diameter trees in study plots on national forest lands in the Pacific Northwest, they found trees with diameters in excess of 21 inches accounted for just 3 percent of the tree population, but stored 42 percent of the total above-ground carbon.

The findings are only the latest to highlight the ecological services provided by bigger, older trees.

Forests with bigger, older trees are also more resilient to wildfire.

"Large trees are the cornerstones of diversity and resilience for the entire forest community," Mildrexler said. "They support rich communities of plants, birds, mammals, insects, and micro-organisms, as well as act as giant water towers that tap into groundwater resources and cool our planet through evaporation."

https://www.earth.com/news/study-highlights-the-value-of-old-large-trees/

In the Pacific Northwest, a 21-inch diameter rule was enacted in 1994 to protect large trees in national forests. However, legislative amendments have been proposed that could potentially allow the harvesting of trees up to 30 inches in diameter. The current study was focused specifically on trees with a diameter of at least 21 inches across national forests in Oregon and Washington.

The research is among the first of its kind to investigate how a proposed policy could affect carbon storage in forest ecosystems. If passed, the legislation would contribute to huge releases of carbon dioxide and would disrupt entire ecosystems.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.

https://phys.org/news/2020-11-biggest-trees-capture-carbon-large.html

https://scitechdaily.com/large-trees-dominate-carbon-storage-in-forests-3-of-trees-account-for-42-of-carbon-storage/

Trust Australia to be world leaders at something:

https://www.miragenews.com/twenty-five-sites-join-unesco-s-world-network-of-biosphere-reserves/

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme today added 25 new sites, one of them transboundary, in 18 countries to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which now numbers 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries around the globe.

Four Member States requested the MAB – ICC to withdraw 11 sites from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Australia requested the withdrawal of five sites: Uluru Ayers Rock-Mount Olga, Croajingalong, Riverland (formerly Bookmark), Kosciuszko, and Unnamed (Mamungari). ...

UNESCO biosphere reserves seek to reconcile human activity with the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. They are a central element of UNESCO’s research and awareness-raising work to foster innovative sustainable development practices and combat the loss of biodiversity supporting communities and Member States’ understanding, valuing and safeguard the living environment.

Take a deep breath while you can:

https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/forest-bathing-a-cure-for-what-ails

Since 2016, the Kite family and others eager for a dose of Mother Nature have gathered in the shady forests around the Tri-Lakes area for guided forest bathing sessions: immersive sensory journeys into nature and mindfulness.

In their new book, “Forest Bathing: The Rejuvenating Practice of Shinrin Yoku,” co-authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles describe how phytoncides—airborne chemicals emitted from plants—affected human health. During forest bathing sessions, scientists observed that breathing in these substances from the trees greatly reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol while also improving other vital physiological functions, like heart rate variability and blood pressure. Even natural killer cells, which help fend off viruses and cancer, increased after study participants spent time in the forests.

“In Japan, shinrin yoku has been classified as a preventative therapy, to help protect against illnesses, as well as reinforcement from operations or disease,” write Garcia and Miralles. “Scientists now have irrevocable proof that trees are medicine, something different traditions had instinctively known for millennia.” Reduced stress and psychological well-being continue to be the biggest benefits a walk through the woods can offer. In a 2019 review published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, researchers found that forest therapy increased feelings of relaxation while minimizing feelings of tension and anxiety. Another recent study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine by Japanese researchers suggested day-long sessions of shinrin yoku could be used to improve the moods of people who struggled with depression.

Meredith Berry, an experimental psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Florida, says nature exposure generally reduces anxiety while increasing happiness and attention. “Taken together, spending time in nature, like green spaces, has a host of benefits for our cognitive, physiological and biological systems,” she says. “The additional focus on mindfulness may enhance the therapeutic benefits of this practice and nature (or) forest exposure, although more research is needed in this area.”


Forest Media 30 October 2020

Koalas have creamed the media again, or at least their dire straights have. The Government refuses to look before they log, in contravention of ESFM. Barilaro calls Koalas tree rats. Government considers themselves great for allowing a Liberal Party donor to clear a third of their critical habitat at Appin.  Having voted to remove most protection for Koalas on private lands in the Lower House, including allowing clearing for "routine" agricultural practices (including fire breaks) in E zones without approval, their next step is to allow clearing of 25m fire breaks along property boundaries.  Friendlyjordies is trending with Gladys#Koala Killer.  Gulaptis happy to get rid of Koala red tape and wants national parks to be opened up for clearing and grazing. Koalas find the National Party's destruction of their habitat increasingly sickening as their populations succumb.  The State and Federal Government's attitude is highlighted by their approval for 52 hectares of Koala habitat to be cleared at Port Stephens, with Gladys the next day announcing 600m2 would be given to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital while Mat Kean professed to be disappointed.   Thousands & thousands of emails against @JohnBarilaroMP's dodgy anti-koala laws have crashed NSW Parliament's email system. Koalas have been identified as an extreme threat to Tasmania's timber industry if they ever seek refuge from NSW there. Though Barilaro would be pleased that feral horses are thriving. The Githabul are unhappy that forestry roading is damaging their sites.

We are a nation of climate change believers led by unbelievers. The forests are full of potentially virulent viruses waiting for us to let them loose. Fungi are vital for forest health and some are highly valued. Forests are valuable for catchment health, sometimes harvesting water directly from clouds. Yet more examples of drying country, burning forests and starving animals as climate chaos spreads. The world knows what is needed: protecting forests, expanding reserve systems and undertaking massive reafforestation - but we have laggards like Trump, Morrison and Barilaro dragging us backwards.

Dailan

Berejiklian's great Koala war continues:

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/10/nefas-plea-look-before-you-log/

The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is demanding that the NSW Government reconsider their refusal to undertake pre-logging surveys for koalas and other threatened species in burnt forests before logging, in light of more damning expert assessments and advice from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) that this contravenes their legal obligations.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said with its gutting of protection for core koala habitat on private lands and refusal to survey for surviving Koalas ahead of logging in burnt forests on public land, the NSW Government is hell-bent on doubling the extinction rate of Koalas, not doubling their populations.

Mr Pugh said that on behalf of NEFA, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) have written to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) attaching reports from three experts detailing the EPA’s failure to take a precautionary approach when issuing approvals to log burnt forests in contravention of the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forestry Management.

‘The experts confirmed the opinion of Dr. Andrew Smith, who was engaged by the EPA, that current logging contravenes the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management, and that logging of fire refugia could be catastrophic for species such as the koala, Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/destruction-of-appin-koala-habitat-a-disgrace-20201026-p568kt.html

Destruction of Appin koala habitat a disgrace

They are a small population of Australian natives, living not far to the south of birrabirragal, Sydney Harbour, clining to existence and living off the land precisely as they have since the days of the Dreamtime. Never, however, have they faced so many threats to their mere survival as right now. Just last summer, whole populations just like theirs were wiped out by the bushfires. Others have fallen victim to developers, disease, and feral cars. Still they hold on, blithely unaware of the forces at play as to whether they live or die.

Courtesy of pressure applied by NSW National Party leader John Barilaro - who I am reliably informed has been overheard to refer to koalas as "tree rats" - the NSW government has recently introduced legislation that weakens koala protection ...

Now, specifically on those 500 Appin koalas? Well, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and the NSW government have recently agreed to rezone those 60 hectares so that a $70 million 280-lot housing development of the Walker Corporation - which has donated an estimated $633,000 to the Liberal Party state and federal over the last 11 years - can be established. and take away a third of their critical habitat. This, effectively, overrules Wollondill Shire Council which  has knocked back the plan several times, as - for starters - the Walker proposal has no Koala Management Plan.

As we speak, the natives in the gum trees still cling on. We have about six months to save them before the bulldozers start up. So, in all urgency, let me cut to the chase. This is a DISGRACE. This government cannot pretend to have any care for the environment when they ram through approvals like this. They have weakened vegetation protections, endangered native species, and all at a frightening pace.

They are our representatives. This is on our watch. Do something, indeed.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/26/bush-and-koalas-found-to-be-threatened-by-gratuitous-nsw-land-clearing-plan

Tens of thousands of hectares of bush could be at risk under a New South Wales government proposal to allow rural landholders to clear up to 25 metres of land from their property’s fence line, analysis by WWF-Australia shows.

WWF-Australia used spatial data to examine how much forest could be exposed under the proposed changes in four local government areas: Clarence Valley, Port Stephens, Shoalhaven and Wollondilly.

It found if all rural property holders cleared to the maximum extent, 44,293ha of forest could be at risk in those four council areas, 32,609ha of that in Clarence Valley. The analysis found 12,000ha of at-risk forest in those regions was high quality koala habitat unless the state government imposed conditions to protect it.

The government is likely to introduce the legislation to parliament in November. It has said it would develop a code to take account of endangered species and habitat but it is unclear what this would entail and whether it would be introduced at the same time.

Field said the government needed to ensure protections were in place for riparian zones, such as creek lines, critically endangered habitats, and threatened species, including the koala. He feared the laws could end up being used for purposes unrelated to bushfire risk.

“I’m particularly concerned by coastal rural land that’s held by developers who may have an intention for future rezoning,” he said.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/10/byron-councillors-object-to-govts-koala-killing-bill/

In an urgency motion passed unanimously at last Thursday’s Byron Shire Council meeting, all councillors noted their ‘strong objection’ to the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, which allows for large-scale clearing of bushland by farmers and industry.

But locally based Nationals MLC Ben Franklin said he would be voting for the Bill.

Mr Franklin told The Echo the Local Land Services Act (the LLS Act) and associated codes already contained ‘robust protections for koalas…’

‘The LLS Act and the land management framework totally prevents harm to threatened species habitat. It acts as a complete stop point.

Cr Lyon added that the bill had particular consequences for the Byron Shire, because it undermined the protections offered by E-zones – an environmental zoning that forms a key part of the Shire’s ecological protection policy framework.

‘It allows certain acts within E-zones… and freezes koala habitat plans of management in time.

‘Our identified core koala habitat is under threat.’

Gladys#Koala Killer

https://thebrag.com/friendlyjordies-political-youtube-documentary/

Friendlyjordies is a true independent political watchdog and he’s making genuine waves in Australian government, to the dismay of the right. 

Otherwise known as Jordan Shanks ...

And it’s working. Friendlyjordies recently told his followers to get #KoalaKiller trending on social media, a description he popularised to describe NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. It was part of his campaign against the NSW State Coalition Government, in favour of protecting the State’s wildlife (he’s extremely passionate about the environment). He then credited his fans with forcing the Berejiklian Government to introduce the controversial Koala Habitat Protection (SEPP) legislation.

Dalton explains that Friendlyjordies thinks the [National] party is operating like an independent mafia. They block new investment. They funnel funds to their corporate mates. They gag the councils and make them beg for funding. They essentially give it no chance of progressing.

https://happymag.tv/did-friendlyjordies-almost-bring-about-the-collapse-of-the-nsw-government/

Gulaptis thinks loggers get a bad rap and we need grazing and clearing of national parks:

https://indd.adobe.com/view/9500f5c5-8396-4721-8e1e-7df84edcdefe

North East Forest Alliance's Dailan Pugh said the State Government caved into the loggers by introducing legislation that removed requirements to protect core Koala habitat from logging and unapproved broadscale clearing.

"They doubled the period of logging approvals from 15 to 30 years while stopping councils from being able to require approval for logging or exclude logging from environmental protection zones" Mr. Pugh said.

State MP Chris Gulaptis disagreed and said previous legislation added a layer of red tape.

"There are already protocols in place to protect koalas that the timber industry and farmers observe" he said.

The timber industry gets pilloried, Mr. Gulaptis said.

He said land clearing that "doesn't threaten habitat" can "be done in a sustainable way and in a mosaic way",

The fires last year were made made worse by the lack of hazard reduction in national parks and the locking of fire trails, he said.

"I blame the government for not putting resources into managing national parks using cattle grazing where appropriate and clearing".

Have you heard, north coast's Koalas are in a sickening decline:

https://abc17news.com/news/national-world/2020/10/29/koala-populations-are-in-decline-due-to-increased-human-impacts-on-nature/

Bushfires, habitat fragmentation, vehicle collisions and dog attacks — all which hurt koalas — have been getting worse over the last decade.

That has led to species population decline and increased disease among koalas, according to new research published Wednesday in the academic journal PLOS ONE.

The number of diseased koalas increased over the course of 30 years, while the number of sick koalas that could be released back into the wild dropped, the study said. It analyzed 29 years’ worth of data on koala sightings and animal hospital admissions from three wildlife rescue groups in New South Wales, Australia.

A combination of environmental impacts and human disturbance of koala habitats, researchers found, have made Australia’s iconic marsupials vulnerable to extinction.

“In the last 10 years, we can see koala rescues ramped up significantly because more koalas are being found out in the open and on the ground,” said lead author Edward Narayan, a senior lecturer of animal science at the University of Queensland.

Environmental degradation, rising global temperatures and droughts have led to more koalas falling to the ground because tree leaves dry out and no longer have enough water or nutrients, according to researchers at the University of Sydney in a separate study.

Over and beyond koala injuries and deaths due to habitat loss and human encroachment, Narayan said koalas are in danger because long-term, chronic stress is hurting their immune systems.

The most common reason a koala was reported or admitted for clinical care was disease — including signs of infections, poor body condition and organ damage, the University of Queensland study data revealed.

“We also found that the disease cases are increasing, so there are more koalas found with higher prevalence of chlamydia, which is one of the diseases that affects koalas,” Narayan told CNN. “As a result, more koalas are having to be euthanized, unfortunately.”

“One of the biggest factors is land clearance,” Narayan said. “What’s happening is koalas are facing more and more pressure on the outskirts of the cities. That habitat corridor is more vulnerable … we can see these bubbles of new housing development impacting koalas.”

Agriculture also plays a role in the decline of koalas, as more natural land is cleared for agricultural development, Narayan added. Sustainable agriculture practices and nature conservation, the study’s researchers argue, are vital for saving koalas.

Climate change is also contributing to the decline of koalas. For example, droughts lead to more dehydrated koalas and fewer healthy trees for them to call home.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0239182&type=printable

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8889007/Australias-iconic-koala-bear-brink-extinction.html

http://www.ecns.cn/news/2020-10-29/detail-ihacnaey6711062.shtml

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/p-ult102120.php

https://7news.com.au/technology/science/nsw-koala-populations-in-steady-decline-c-1477327

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2r1ZiXgcX6Q

Rising temperatures and drought are drying up eucalyptus leaves, the only source of hydration and nutrition for Australia’s iconic animal, the koala. They’re now searching for water to avoid fatal heat stress. That’s why on 18 September 2018, the University of Sydney community will come together to Pave the Way for a brighter future for our koalas. We are fundraising to install drinking stations to give them access to water they so desperately need. Find out more and make a donation: http://www.sydney.edu.au/pavetheway

https://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/6991438/std-worry-for-koalas/

Koalas in key NSW habitats have steadily declined with chlamydia proving a major problem for the furry creatures, new research has found.

The study by Western Sydney University's Dr Edward Narayan examined 12,543 records of wild koalas at rescue sites in Port Stephens, Port Macquarie and Lismore between 1989 to 2018 and found disease was the most common reason they were admitted to care.

"The long-term trends for these koala hotspots paint a picture of a steady decline in populations," Dr Narayan said in a statement.

Dr Narayan said protecting the koalas' environment was the best way to support the work of rescue groups, stabilise the populations and reverse the trends identified.

"There is an urgent need to strengthen on-ground management, bushfire control regimes, environmental planning and governmental policy to reduce stressors impacting koalas on the North Coast and across the state.

Commonwealth pile in on Koalas:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-27/koala-habitat-cleared-for-brandy-hill-quarry-extension/12819054

The expansion of a controversial rock quarry that will clear 52 hectares of koala habitat north of Newcastle has been approved by the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

The grassroots campaign attracted support from celebrities such as Olivia Newton-John, Celeste Barber, Jimmy Barnes and Magda Szubanski.

The NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean had even backed away from his own government's decision, calling on Ms Ley to closely review the project.

"I really thought we would have won this one, because we really need to start winning these campaigns, because we don't have time left to play with anymore," said local resident, Chantal Parslow-Redman.

"It's incredibly frustrating given the groundswell of our campaign, the amount of people that we've had come onboard and support us — and still to get this decision, I'm really quite shocked and upset."

Ms Parslow Redman said she had seen breeding koalas at the site and dismissed plans for an additional 74-hectare corridor to be revegetated.

"It's something that needs to be planted, so the fact is we're looking at between 15 to 20 years until a tree grows," she said.

"It's the trees there on site at the moment that we know are active koala feed trees and habitat trees, they're the trees that need to be retained."

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-27/koala-habitat-cleared-for-brandy-hill-quarry-extension/12819054

"We commissioned an independent expert and he did an up-to-date survey and found between one and two koalas and concluded that the quality of the vegetation was such that this wasn't core breeding habitat, that koalas would tend to move through it and not in huge numbers," she said.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/net-gain-for-koalas-under-approval-of-controversial-quarry-expansion-ley-20201027-p5691n.html

https://www.9news.com.au/national/brandy-hill-quarry-53-hectare-koala-habitat-to-be-cleared-after-nsw-quarry-expansion-approval/e31b774b-5c37-4c75-8723-2f9037f252e7

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6988514/premier-gifts-port-macquarie-with-a-koala-hospital-expansion-as-port-stephens-gets-heartbreak/

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/illiterate-oz-%e2%80%a6-ups-and-downs-of-koala-politics-%e2%80%a6-mckenzie-rides-again/ar-BB1asjPz

How much can a koala take? Before she was hauled in front of the authorities for no crime but loving the wrong man (and apparently failing to pick up that wrong man’s alleged corruption that he kept actively trying to tell her about), NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was enjoying good press, having stared down the NSW National Party over its sure-fire, vote-winning policy of koala murder. One can understand why she’d want to return to those heady days.

Hence yesterday’s announcement of 6000 square metres of land being gifted to a koala hospital. The timing is a little off, sadly, given it follows the approval by federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley of a quarry expansion straight through a koala habitat, which is expected to destroy more than 50 hectares. It makes Berejiklian’s recompense (less than a hectare) seem a smidge inconsequential.

https://www.wauchopegazette.com.au/story/6989482/greens-aim-to-ban-koala-habitat-clearing/

The Greens want to ban koala habitats from being cleared to ensure the native marsupial survives.

The minor party hopes such a moratorium would block the Morrison government's decision to allow a controversial quarry extension in Port Stephens to go ahead.

[Sarah Hanson-Young] "Unless habitat clearing is stopped, koalas will soon be extinct," she said.

"Off the back of the worst bushfires in history which killed a third of NSW's koala population and destroyed millions of hectares of habitat across the country, no approvals for developments on koala land should be given."

The party will introduce to parliament a moratorium on habitat clearing.

... Kean disappointing:

Newcastle Herald 28 October 2020

The Premier Gladys Berejiklian was in Port Macquarie on Tuesday to announce state-owned land would be gifted to a koala hospital for expansion.

The move came on the same day that campaigners in Port Stephens were in dismay, as the federal government approved the Brandy Hill quarry expansion into koala habitat.

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said the premier's move was "an offensive attempt to distract from what they have done".

NSW Environment Minster Matt Kean said the federal decision was "a disappointing outcome".

"Let me be clear, if the proponent of this project in any way does not comply with the strict conditions of its approval, I would expect our state's environmental agencies to apply the full force of the law."

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/29/matt-kean-chides-sussan-ley-over-disappointing-destruction-of-port-stephens-koala-habitat

The New South Wales environment minister, Matt Kean, has said he is disappointed by the decision of his federal counterpart, Sussan Ley, to approve the expansion of a rock quarry in koala habitat in Port Stephens, despite the state government previously recommending environmental approval for the project.

Before it received federal approval, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment recommended it receive a state environmental approval. The state’s Independent Planning Commission approved the project with conditions in July.

Kean has said he wants to double the state’s koala population by 2050, but state policies have led to increases in land-clearing and allowed for continued logging of habitat after the state’s bushfire disaster.

Ley said: “Matt Kean may well be preoccupied with the politics around koalas but I am focused on one thing only, achieving genuine conservation outcomes.

“As a result of my intervention, we have secured an additional 22 hectares of high-quality koala habitat, over and above the conditions imposed by Mr Kean’s government.”

Rachel Walmsley, of the Environmental Defenders Office, said both state and federal levels of government had failed to protect koalas.

She pointed to the recent NSW government turmoil over koala policy that has resulted in proposed changes to laws that would further weaken environmental protections.

“Neither the federal nor the NSW government seem interested in preventing koalas from going extinct,” Walmsley said. “Both of them are failing koalas.”

... and in NSW they are standing up for Koalas:

https://www.facebook.com/greencate/

Thousands & thousands of emails against @JohnBarilaroMP's dodgy anti-koala laws have crashed NSW Parliament's email system today. Sorry about that but you shouldn't mess with koalas. #nswpol#KoalaKillers#SaveourKoalas

Who needs homes when you have money?

https://www.dailyexaminer.com.au/news/animals-plants-queue-up-for-bushfire-recovery-gran/4125532/?cspt=1603670679|d9929f74528b78c2fe0f957dee7b62d4

FOLLOWING the devastation of last summer’s bushfires, more money is available to give helping hand to native animals. They just need someone to take it.

The $10 million Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Community Grants Program is open for applications until November 27.

The 2019/20 bushfires effect on local species has been profound, with koalas the most notable victim.

However, it was not just the furry favourites which were severely affected.

River ecosystems were also ravaged with number of fish kills in the region attributed to ash run-off following significant rainfall weeks after the bushfires.

The long drought had already put the fish population in the upper reaches of the Clarence River in peril and the bushfires and rain simply compounded the problem.

The Department Primary Industries staff even resorted to fish relocation in an effort to protect various threatened species.

Grants from $5,000 to $150,000 are available for projects such as, but not limited to, providing supplementary animal shelter, nest boxes and artificial hollows, eradicating or reducing the impact of pest animals and weeds, protecting sensitive habitat and waterways, and seed collection, propagation and revegetation of native plants.

Grant guidelines are available at business.gov.au/brwhc and applications close on November 27.

Koalas an extreme threat to Tasmania:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-28/why-are-there-no-wild-koalas-in-tasmania/12806032

Although the report said the actual risk of economic damage was not clear, it said koalas had a "demonstrated ability to have a major impact on the health of eucalypt forests in areas where they have been introduced and occur in high densities".

The report said a number of the tree species preferred by koalas were important for Tasmania's forestry production.

In addition, the presence of koalas could cause an increase in forestry management costs by requiring koala management actions in timber production areas."

The assessment concluded that koalas represented an extreme threat to Tasmania.

"Based on the outcome of the risk assessment it is recommended that koalas are not permitted entry into Tasmania," the report said.

At least feral horses are thriving:

https://www.armidaleexpress.com.au/story/6989421/wild-horses-in-demand-but-trapping-program-fails-to-supply-them/

In October 2000, an aerial cull of 600 wild horses in Guy Fawkes River National Park caused a public outcry after Ebor residents Erica Jessup and Graeme Baldwin exposed the lingering deaths suffered by the maimed animals.

The pair then spent two years developing a passive trapping program for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which has seen over 1000 horses taken from the park to be tamed and rehomed.

This week, Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox used the 20-year anniversary of the mass shooting to declare that the subsequent ban on aerial culling has created an environmental crisis, as "horse populations in parks are without effective control".

"After the 2000 cull Guy Fawkes River National Park had less than 100 horses and yet despite a trap and removal program it is now home to about 1800 horses and rising," he said.

Roads eroding culture

https://indd.adobe.com/view/9500f5c5-8396-4721-8e1e-7df84edcdefe

Jennifer Williams stands at the secret women's waterhole in Tooloom State Forest near Urbenville.

Dirr-darn-ghan, the spirit of the birthing pool, when the rains come and the new soil washes into her waters from where it has been put on roads through the state forest, Jennifer said.

Elder Gloria Williams said the Forestry Corporation was supposed to consult with the Githabul about any changes, but depositing swathes of soft soil had not been discussed.

Tasmanians are promising to stand strong:

https://www.themercury.com.au/business/hundreds-pledge-to-protest-forests-under-threat-from-logging/news-story/2196f268da07dca740d691e716fd7b55?btr=02e835d9d9f5a084a5afd1f743688f97

HUNDREDS of conservationists have signed up to join the front line of forestry protests this summer if logging resumes in the forests of the Florentine Valley.

At the weekend, 300 people pledge to save a local forest giant known as the Home Tree and the rainforest in Florentine coupe TN005D, which is earmarked for logging this summer.

“The Gutwein Government claims that Sustainable Timber Tasmania doesn’t log rainforests, big trees or old growth rainforest but the public saw for themselves the truth – that it continues to log all three,” he said.

Western logging on show:

https://thewest.com.au/news/augusta-margaret-river-times/doco-a-cry-from-the-heart-ng-b881704697z

Capes residents will get the chance of an insider’s look into logging activities in the South West which activists hope will reinforce community sentiment against an industry they consider unsustainable.

The Cry of the Forests documentary screens twice at the Margaret River HEART next Wednesday.

The producers, as part of the WA Forest Alliance, have developed the documentary in recent months while ramping up their campaign against logging in the Helms and McCorkhill forests inland from Margaret River.

Also featured in the hour-long film is the work of the self-described “Nannas for Forests” — a group of Margaret River and Perth grandmothers who have staged their own protests in recent months.

We are a nation of believers led by unbelievers:

https://theconversation.com/new-polling-shows-79-of-aussies-care-about-climate-change-so-why-doesnt-the-government-listen-148726?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2028%202020%20-%201769917160&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2028%202020%20-%201769917160+CID_142736764257d0b8f6533dfd6bcb3488&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=New%20polling%20shows%2079%20of%20Aussies%20care%20about%20climate%20change%20So%20why%20doesnt%20the%20government%20listen

The Climate of the Nation report has tracked Australian attitudes to climate change for more than a decade.

This year, it polled 1,998 Australians aged 18 and over, and found the vast majority (79%) hold views in line with the best available scientific evidence. That is, four in five Australians agree climate change is occurring. This is the highest result since 2012.

An even greater majority, 82%, is worried climate change will result in more bushfires, up from 76% in last year’s report.

Only 12% of Australians want to see Australia’s economic recovery led by investment in gas, a plan the Morrison government is set on carrying out.

In contrast, a majority (59%) would like to see the recovery driven by renewables.

The Climate Change Performance Index evaluates 57 countries plus the European Union, which together are responsible for more than 90% of global emissions. This year, Australia ranked last on climate policy.

For everyday Australians, the solution is clear. The Climate of the Nation report shows the vast majority (83%) want to see coal-fired power stations phased out. Some 65% want the Australian government to stop new coal mines from being developed.

68% support a net-zero by 2050 target for Australia.

850,000 pandemics in waiting:

https://theconversation.com/un-report-says-up-to-850-000-animal-viruses-could-be-caught-by-humans-unless-we-protect-nature-148911?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2030%202020%20-%201771817183&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2030%202020%20-%201771817183+CID_e6b53b5f62e1b2951e473117465909b0&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=UN%20report%20says%20up%20to%20850000%20animal%20viruses%20could%20be%20caught%20by%20humans%20unless%20we%20protect%20nature

A major report released today says up to 850,000 undiscovered viruses which could be transferred to humans are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts.

The report, by The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), says to avoid future pandemics, humans must urgently transform our relationship with the environment.

The report says, on average, five new diseases are transferred from animals to humans every year – all with pandemic potential. In the past century, these have included:

  • the Ebola virus (from fruit bats),
  • AIDS (from chimpazees)
  • Lyme disease (from ticks)
  • the Hendra virus (which first erupted at a Brisbane racing stable in 1994).

Tens of thousands of wild animals were culled in China after the SARS outbreak and bats continue to be persecuted after the onset of COVID-19.

The IPBES report identifies potential ways forward. These include:

  • a reduction in land-use change, by expanding protected areas, restoring habitat and implementing financial disincentives such as taxes on meat consumption

However, there are no guarantees it will accept the recommendations of the IPBES report, given the Australian government’s underwhelming recent record on environmental policy.

For example, in recent months the government has so far refused to sign the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature. The pledge, instigated by the UN, includes a commitment to taking a OneHealth approach – which considers health and environmental sustainability together – when devising policies and making decisions.

The government cut funding of environmental studies courses by 30%. It has sought to reduce so called “green tape” in national environmental legislation, and its economic response to the pandemic will be led by industry and mining - a focus that creates further pandemic potential.

https://www.miragenews.com/a-new-analysis-reveals-that-accessible-and-affordable-healthcare-could-be-a-key-tool-for-addressing-climate-crisis/

Although the link may not be obvious, healthcare and climate change – two issues that pose major challenges around the world – are in fact more connected than society may realize. So say researchers, who are increasingly proving this to be true.

Case in point: A new study by UC Santa Barbara’s Andy MacDonald found that improving healthcare in rural Indonesia reduced incentives for illegal logging in a nearby national park, averting millions of dollars’ worth of atmospheric carbon emissions.

The analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that deforestation in the national park declined 70% in the 10 years after an affordable health clinic opened in the area.

The Indonesian clinic accepts barter as payment and gives discounts to villages based on community-wide reductions in logging. Given its success, it could provide a blueprint for preserving the world’s biodiverse carbon sinks while reducing poverty and illness.

Every second, more than 100 trees disappear from tropical forests around the world. These forests, some of the world’s most important carbon reservoirs, are crucial to slowing climate change and mass extinction.

The Wood Wide Web of life:

https://www.eurasiareview.com/25102020-soil-fungi-act-like-a-support-network-for-trees/

Being highly connected to a strong social network has its benefits. Now a new University of Alberta study is showing the same goes for trees, thanks to their underground neighbours.

The study, published in the Journal of Ecology, is the first to show that the growth of adult trees is linked to their participation in fungal networks living in the forest soil.

When they colonize the roots of a tree, fungal networks act as a sort of highway, allowing water, nutrients and even the compounds that send defence signals against insect attacks to flow back and forth among the trees.

The network also helps nutrients flow to resource-limited trees “like family units that support one another in times of stress,” Birch noted.

“We found that the more connected an adult tree is, the more it has significant growth advantages, which means the network could really influence large-scale important interactions in the forest, like carbon storage. If you have this network that is helping trees grow faster, that helps sequester more carbon year after year.”

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/10/26/news/whats-forest-worth

Forests have historically been valued on an industrial scale, managed to maximize the amount of timber cut. But when they aren’t clearcut, they also offer other valuable resources that advocates say should be recognized as well.

Wild mushrooms — morels, chanterelles, pine mushrooms — grow thick in the B.C. backwoods. Prized by chefs around the world, they’re largely ignored in B.C.’s forestry legislation despite sitting at the heart of a cash-based, gold rush-worthy global trade in non-timber forest resources.

Ferns, berries, other tree species and complex webs of mycorrhizae and bacteria are essential to the ecosystems of old-growth, and older second-growth, forests. Clearcuts, unlike more selective logging practices, destroy this complex ecosystem that develops in the understory and soil over decades. And rapidly replanting those forests with uniform stands of the same tree species is equally problematic, he said, because the new plantations are too dense and homogenous to support similar understory ecosystems.

The most important commercial species of wild mushrooms depends on older, diverse forest ecosystems to thrive.

Chanterelles, which between 1995 and 2005 were worth an estimated $3.5 million annually in exports to Europe alone, do best in stands of Douglas fir between 40 and 80 years old. They prefer open, mossy understories and shade. Pine mushrooms require similar conditions, if a bit brighter, in forests of fir, hemlock and spruce that are at least 60 years old. Between 2000 and 2003, thousands of pounds of these mushrooms were sent to Japan to the tune of roughly $20 million annually.

Water is valuable too:

https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2020/10/to-thrive-despite-climate-change-build-a-water-smart-minnesota/

It will cost four times as much to restore landscapes once they’re lost than to preserve them. That’s why we need to act immediately to protect the Mississippi’s headwaters, which are still 60% forested.

When present, forests and wetlands are a natural sponge and filter. The rich soils and roots soak up excess water, keeping it from running off into lakes and waterways with the sediments and chemicals it can carry. This recharges our groundwater and supplies our lakes and streams. But now we’re facing the challenge of diminishing forest and wetlands.

Last year, Ecolab partnered with McKinsey and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) on a study that found protecting critical lands in the Mississippi headwaters would yield $500 million in benefits. These include avoided water treatment costs and flood damage, retained property value, tourism and jobs, along with carbon mitigation and public health gains. If we delay too long and the job becomes restoration instead of preservation, the cost could be as high as $8 billion.

... all the more so when it doesn't rain:

https://news.globallandscapesforum.org/47924/cloud-forests-narrow-bands-of-biodiversity-filled-with-mist-fog-and-mystery/

Cloud forests are born of very specific geographic and climatic features: they usually form partway up mountains, when moisture-laden air currents from surrounding lowlands and bodies of water are forced upward and then cool and condense as they rise, creating persistent fog or cloud cover in a particular area. The forests that grow there are often characterized by gnarled, stumpy trees; moss and lichen blanketing the ground and vegetation; strange, colorful orchids; and sodden epiphytes dripping water. It’s easy to see why these places are sometimes known as “goblin forests” or “elvin woodlands”: “They look a lot like some of the enchanted forests you see in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings,” says Nasi. 

But these woodlands’ real magic lies in their ability to conjure water “out of thin air.” Their canopy trees – and the plants that live on them – intercept wind-driven cloud moisture, which drips to the ground and soaks into their spongy soils, often providing a key water source for areas downstream. This water-capturing superpower means these moist forests can crop up even in the middle of deserts ...

Because of the particular conditions they require, cloud forests are usually quite small in size, and in total they make up just 1 percent of global forest area. There are 736 known cloud forest sites across the planet, ...

Like the rest of the world’s woodlands, cloud forests have been compromised and fragmented by timber felling, mining and land clearance for agriculture – we lose about 1.1 percent of the global cloud forest estate to these causes every year ...

A 2019 study estimated that climate change could shrink and dry 60 to 80 percent of cloud forests in the Western Hemisphere in as few as 25 years. “These forests exist in a very narrow attitudinal range, and this altitudinal range is defined by the climatic condition,” says Nasi. “They can’t go down, they can only go up – which means that with the climate changing, the altitudinal range where they are growing is going to be narrower and narrower, until it finally disappears.”

Climate is drying forests and starving animals:

https://en.mercopress.com/2020/10/26/drought-and-wildfires-devastating-south-america-s-wetlands-and-forests

Experts say the wildfires in a region that spans Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay – especially the region between the Paraguay, Parana, and Uruguay rivers – have become critical in 2020.

“There has been a dramatic increase in fires. In Argentina there has been an increase of around 170%, it's very serious,” said Elisabeth Mohle, an environmental politics researcher at Argentina's San Martin National University ...

The Pantanal - the world's largest wetlands that span Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay - is experiencing its worst drought in 47 years.

The Parana River - one of the most powerful on the planet that originates in Brazil and empties into the River Plate estuary - is at its lowest level since 1970. ...

The fires are being fanned by such conditions as strong winds, temperatures over 40 C and the dry season in which farmers use slash-and-burn techniques to try to regenerate the soil.

In Paraguay, “the fires... at the end of September and first week of October, broke all records,” Eduardo Mingo, a top official at the national weather center said.

The Parana Delta that is home to species such as the jaguar, Pampas cat and several rodents, has been hit by fires of an unprecedented intensity since January, leaving what some call a “desert of ashes” over tens of thousands of hectares of wetlands.

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/with-a-drastic-decline-in-tropical-fruit-gabons-rainforest-mega-gardeners-go-hungry/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=ae1ce8f542-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-ae1ce8f542-77229786&mc_cid=ae1ce8f542&mc_eid=c0875d445f

  • Climate change appears to be disrupting the yield of fruit trees, a critical food source for many large mammals in Central Africa.
  • A new study warns that endangered forest elephants and other keystone species in Lopé National Park in central Gabon — such as western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and mandrills — could be facing famine.
  • “The changes are drastic,” says Emma Bush, co-lead author of the study. “The massive collapse in fruiting may be due to missing the environmental cue to bear fruit.”
  • Some tropical trees depend on a drop in temperature to trigger flowering, but since the 1980s, the region recorded less rainfall and a temperature increase of 1°C.

We know what we need to do, we just need to do it:

https://www.miragenews.com/fao-calls-for-stepping-up-forest-and-landscape-restoration/

28 October 2020, Rome – Efforts to restore the world’s degraded forests and landscapes must be scaled up to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, said FAO in a new publication released today.

Land and forest degradation are among the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Globally, 25 percent of the total land area has been degraded. To safeguard the future of our planet, major actions are needed to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.

The importance of land and forest restoration is highlighted in a new edition of FAO’s quarterly forestry publication Unasylva, launched today at the Global Landscapes Forum Biodiversity Digital Conference: One World – One Health.

However, the publication argues that much more needs to be done at the national, regional and global scale to meet commitments under the Bonn Challenge, which aim to restore 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2030, and other international pledges.

“Forest and landscape restoration is about much more than trees: it has social and economic benefits such as improving human well-being and livelihoods, and contributes to many of the Sustainable Development Goals, including mitigating climate change and conserving biodiversity,” said Mette Wilkie, Director, FAO Forestry.

“Societies worldwide will need to be convinced of the global restoration imperative by rational economic argument, compassion for current and future generations, and an emotional connection to nature,” according to the authors of one article in the journal.

... we need to double our national parks to meet the 30x30 target:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/despite-covid-political-divides-conservation-can-advance-hansjorg-wyss/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=ae1ce8f542-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-ae1ce8f542-77229786&mc_cid=ae1ce8f542&mc_eid=c0875d445f

2020 was supposed to be the year that the world assessed progress on a decade’s worth of effort to stave off the sixth mass extinction — the first extinction driven by the activities of a single species — and set ambitious new targets for conservation. But the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, leading to postponement of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, among other high-level meetings. Nonetheless, conservationists have continued to press forward with initiatives aiming to preserve habitat for wildlife, including the “30×30” target, which aims to conserve 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030.

[Wyss] “Politics in the U.S. has become all consuming, with folks going to their partisan corners on almost every issue. It remains our job, and the job of conservation advocates, to continue supporting locally-driven conservation efforts and demonstrating to decision makers that these efforts enjoy overwhelming support from the American public, regardless of their political ideology.”

We all recognize that the status quo is not working. One million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, and a huge percentage of the Earth has already been heavily modified by humans. We have to act quickly and collectively to save what’s left. Thankfully, over the last two years, nations have begun coalescing around the need to dramatically expand protections for lands and waters. A coalition of over 30 countries are currently working to establish a global 30×30 target when nations meet at next year’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to establish a new strategic plan for nature.

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/ambitious-and-holistic-goals-key-to-saving-earths-biodiversity-study-says/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=ae1ce8f542-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-ae1ce8f542-77229786&mc_cid=ae1ce8f542&mc_eid=c0875d445f

  • A recently published study in the journal Science gives recommendations for decision-makers preparing to set new biodiversity goals at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2021.
  • The researchers urge CBD negotiators and policymakers to consider three critical points as they create the new biodiversity goals: the goals must be multifaceted, developed holistically, and highly ambitious.
  • “No net loss” of diversity is an example of a highly ambitious goal. Its targets include increasing natural ecosystem area, saving culturally important species, and conserving 90% of Earth’s genetic diversity.
  • To turn the tide, the new biodiversity goals must be both highly ambitious and unified, and address ecosystems, species, genetic diversity, and nature’s contributions to people.

The biggest challenge, according to the study, will not be creating these goals, but making them happen. Part of this process is being sure the goals and targets are written in a way that is difficult to exploit, with no loopholes or weaknesses in wording. Addressing the causes of biodiversity loss, including the social, economic and political pressures driving this loss, are key.

... we need to reforest to reduce CO2:

https://www.newser.com/story/298051/study-chinas-forests-suck-up-more-carbon-than-thought.html

(Newser) – China is the world's biggest polluter—but a massive tree-planting program has helped absorb more of its carbon dioxide emissions than researchers expected. In a new study in the journal Nature, researchers say that according to ground and satellite observations, the rapid afforestation of areas of northeast and southwest China has created a previously underestimated "carbon sink" that accounts for around 35% of the country's land carbon absorption. The researchers estimate that China's biosphere absorbs around 45% of the country's human-caused emissions. Beijing, which is planting a "Green Great Wall" in the country's north, recently said it aims to make China carbon-neutral by 2060.

China has expanded its forest cover from 16.74% in 1990 to around 23% in 2020, with billions of trees planted to fight desertification and establish new timber industries.

... and breathe life into our cities:

https://cities-today.com/seoul-to-create-wind-path-forests-to-direct-clean-air-into-the-city/

Seoul has announced plans to create its first “wind path forests” to circulate clean air, absorb particulate matter and minimise the urban heat island effect.

Trees will be placed close together along rivers and roads to create the wind paths so that clean and cool air generated at night from Gwanaksan Mountain and Bukhansan Mountain can flow into the centre of Seoul.

There will be three types of forest. Wind-generating forests, including species such as pine trees and maple trees, will be cultivated so that they direct the fresh air from the forest to flow towards the city centre. Connecting forests will feature air-purifying plants, such as wild cherry trees and oak trees, along a path linking the forest to the city centre – the idea is that the leaves will absorb particulate matter while the branches and tree trunks will block moving particulate matter. Smaller ‘forests’ will be planted in the city centre, including parks, green rooftops and living walls.

The city said the initiative could help to reduce the average temperature in downtown Seoul by up to seven degrees Celsius in summer.

Earlier this month, the City of Boston issued a $US500,000 request for proposals (RFP) to design its first ‘urban forest’ plan, which will develop strategies that promote the growth and protection of its urban canopy over the next 20 years. In August last year, the City of Los Angeles named its first Forest Officer, a new post to oversee the city’s goal of planting 90,000 trees by 2021.

Lets hope they are the death-throes of a tyrant:

https://www.livescience.com/alaska-tongass-national-forest-trump-lifts-protections.html

President Donald Trump will strip Alaska's Tongass National Forest from protections put in place nearly two decades ago, opening up millions of acres of pristine wilderness to road development and logging, according to a notice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture posted on Wednesday (Oct. 28).

The Tongass, which covers most of southeast Alaska, is one of the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforests and serves as a major carbon sink, absorbing at least 9% of all the carbon stored in all of the continental U.S. forests combined, according to The Washington Post.

Much of the Tongass was protected from logging and road construction by the 2001 Roadless Rule, which was put in place by former President Bill Clinton. But starting tomorrow (Oct. 29), the Tongass National Forest will be exempt from this rule, meaning that logging companies can legally build roads and cut timber throughout the forest.

Still, the Trump Administration has reversed, revoked or rolled back more than 70 environmental rules, including climate policies and rules around clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals, according to The New York Times. The administration is currently in the process of revoking a couple dozen more.


Forest Media 23 October 2020

The Berejiklian Government  revealed the depth of their capitulation to the Nats and contempt for Koalas with their comprehensive gutting of Koala protections on private lands by tightening the criteria for identification of core Koala habitat, stopping its protection from clearing and logging, and just to be sure removing Council's power to regulate forestry while opening up environment zones and doubling approval periods for PNF.  Balilaro is back. While NSW was gutting protection for Koalas, one story of their plight gained worldwide attention. WWF have launched their $300 million “Regenerate Australia” program with Koalas Forever, with their intent to double Koala numbers by 2050 - I hope they don't mimic the Government's efforts. Koalas are having trouble adapting to increasing urbanization while urban people are having trouble adapting to flying foxes running out of bush foods. While the Government refuses to assess impacts on Koalas, at least invertebrates are getting a look in - even if we don't know what most of them are. The Big Canopy Campout garnered some attention. In southern NSW the logging reprieve is over as the loggers return against the EPA's advice. Morrison is not just cutting funding for the arts, he is also doing over environmental studies courses - he thinks we need an environmentally illiterate population without ideas. Meanwhile Indonesia is leading by example clearing and burning 4.4 million hectares of its forests over 5 years, while it also relaxes landclearing laws. There is increasing recognition of the importance of natural climate solutions, though the loggers are spinning it for all its worth, including for fashion fibre.

Dailan

Gutting the corpse of the Koala SEPP:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/liberals-back-down-on-koalas-after-barilaro-bluster-20201016-p565uf.html

After a bruising political battle that saw Gladys Berejiklian impose her authority over state Nationals, NSW Liberals have quietly backed down, supporting a bill to weaken planned reforms designed to protect koalas on privately-owned farmland.

But this week the Nationals introduced the Local Land Services Amendment Bill to Parliament, supported by the Liberals, which will exempt private rural landholders from having to recognise the new, expanded definition of koala habitat.

Environmental Defenders Office head of law reform Rachel Walmsley said the changes would prevent expansion of koala habitat protection on private farmland into the future.

"This bill is trying to freeze in time the small areas that are currently mapped, whereas it's clear from the science we need to protect more habitat," Ms Walmsley said.

There are only five local governments with plans of management mapping koala habitat in place - on the NSW North Coast - and they would be unaffected by the proposed changes.

But if any local government develops one in the future, the bill guarantees private rural landholders are exempt and the protections could only apply to public or peri-urban land.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/10/nefa-say-berejiklian-is-extincting-koalas/

The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) claim that the Berejiklian Government has comprehensively caved into the loggers by introducing legislation that not only removes requirements to protect core Koala habitat from logging and unapproved broads cale clearing, but also doubles the period of logging approvals from 15 to 30 years while stopping Councils from being able to require approval for logging or exclude logging from environmental protection zones.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh says the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 introduced into parliament on 14 October represents the Liberal Party’s total capitulation to the loggers and developers at the behest of the National Party.

Mr Pugh says this is a despicable act from a Government hell-bent on halving our rapidly diminishing populations of Koalas, not doubling them.

https://www.townandcountrymagazine.com.au/story/6975856/koalas-lose-out-under-new-bill-in-nsw/

Large-scale agricultural businesses and property developers would be exempt from some koala protection laws in a new proposal before NSW parliament this week, an environmental conservation group says.

The Nature Conservation Council is calling on state members of parliament to vote down the Local Land Services Amendment Bill, saying it prevents further expansion of koala habitat protections into private farmland.

[Chris Gambian] "Basically the Nationals gave the Liberals a choice between saving the Coalition or saving the koala and they chose themselves."

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/nsw-country-hour/nsw-country-hour/12763864

Tue 20 Oct 2020, from 9.50-16.20

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/10/nsw-liberals-betray-koalas-and-back-down-to-national-party/

The changes that the National Party have demanded to the Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), that passed in the NSW Legislative Assembly (Lower House) yesterday, will ensure that koalas are extinct in the wild by 2050, say experts in the field.

During yesterday’s debate local Ballina MP Tamara Smith said ... " It is a tragic day. Our iconic koalas are headed towards extinction and that’s what’s at stake.’

‘This bill isn’t a ‘compromise’ on the new koala policy. It takes koala protections back 25 years, at a time when we need to be strengthening laws to protect koala habitat. We lost maybe 10,000 koalas in NSW in the Black Summer fires. If this bill passes, the government may as well sign their death warrant,’ said Ms Faehrmann.

‘The updated Koala SEPP has been years in the making, but now all that hard work has been scrapped to appease the National Party and the powerful timber and farming lobbies.’

Analysis of the bill by the Environmental Defenders Office has found that the bill allows for: unregulated land clearing of koala habitat not already identified in rural areas; the prevention of expanded koala habitat protection on private farmland into the future; and the exemption of Private Native Forestry operations from important development consents, with their durations doubled from 15 to 30 years.

‘After making a great song and dance about standing up to the Nationals, it seems the NSW Liberals have backed down completely,’ said Evan Quartermain, head of programs at Humane Society International (HSI).

[Dailan Pugh] ‘The National Party stopped north coast councils from rezoning land for environmental protection in 2012, they stopped the Byron and Tweed Coastal Koala Plans of Management being approved in 2015, and now National Party MP Ben Franklin has promised the Shooters [and Fishers] that “e-zones will not be created in relation to any koala plans of management”.

‘Thanks to the Nationals, councils are not allowed to protect koalas or protect anywhere from logging.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/10/tweed-nationals-mp-geoff-provest-condemned-over-koala-vote/

Federal Labor MP for Richmond Justine Elliot has joined the condemnation of the NSW Liberal and National parties over the approval of the  Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) bill 2020  in the Lower House of the NSW government.

Ms Elliot has also condemned ‘Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest and his disgraced Liberal-National Party who voted for laws that will see the widespread killing of our precious koalas on the North Coast’.

‘Now we’re seeing a shameful act of environmental vandalism by Geoff Provest, his Premier and his developer mates – they’re a disgraceful rotten Government with no integrity,’ Ms Elliot said.

Ms Elliot said you can watch Geoff Provest vote in the NSW Parliament for laws that will see the killing of koalas on the North Coast on her Facebook page.

https://www.miragenews.com/common-sense-prevails-for-koalas-and-farmers/

NSW Farmers welcomes the passage of amendments to the Local Land Services Act by the NSW Legislative Assembly today.

“The changes passed today mean landholders will not be overburdened by red tape and planning laws that inhibit the active land management for production and environmental uses on their land.”

Ms Petrie said the amendments will also build certainty for farmers in running their businesses.

“The changes approved today will remove outdated rules that actually inhibit sound forest management, giving land owners, contractors and mills the certainty to manage forests productively while also achieving positive environmental outcomes.”

Balilaro is Back:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-21/john-barilaro-flags-retirement-on-return-to-parliament/12797122

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has not ruled out quitting politics next year as he returned to Macquarie Street after a month's mental health leave.

Mr Barilaro, the NSW Nationals leader, admitted he thought he was "never coming back" when he announced his leave amid an explosive public row with Liberal colleagues over koala habitat policy.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8861581/John-Barilaros-mental-health-battle-Koala-stoush-Gladys-Berejiklian.html

John Barilaro couldn't get out of bed and nearly quit parliament, the NSW deputy premier said on his return from a four-week mental health break.

The outspoken Nationals leader found himself in hot water in September when he threatened to blow up the coalition government if concessions weren't made on its koala protection policy.

Under pressure to quit and copping criticism from all sides, a week later Mr Barilaro announced he would take four weeks mental health leave.

The Nature Conservation Council is calling on state members of parliament to vote down the Local Land Services Amendment Bill, saying it prevents further expansion of koala habitat protections into private farmland.

Koala survival:

https://www.indiatimes.com/trending/environment/australia-koalas-diseases-bushfires-525680.html

After a new report indicated that almost three-quarters of the koala population across Australia perished during last season's bushfires, the species is being considered for official listing as endangered. However, volunteers and authorities have been doing their best for months now, to ensure that the koalas that survived receive the best medical care so that their health can be restored.

Widespread infection among koalas, forest fires, drought, logging, and urban encroachment on their habitat are some of the events that threaten their survival.

The worst wildfire summer in the country in a generation devastated more than 11.2 million hectares, almost half the area of ​​the UK, leaving gray marsupials at the center of political and social debate.

New state laws seek to limit farmers' ability to raze land considered important for koala habitat, sparking a political fight between urban conservationists and those who want to manage their properties in the mountains.

"The rate of tree-clearing and loss of habitats (are) behind all of the other factors that threaten them in those developed areas which include domestic dog attacks and vehicle strikes," said Kellie Leigh, head of Science for Wildlife...

https://www.unilad.co.uk/animals/koalas-at-risk-of-becoming-extinct-in-new-south-wales-in-our-lifetime/

Last year, the devastating bushfires ravaged more than 27 million acres of land, killing at least 5,000 koalas in New South Wales.

As the country prepares to enter another summer, koalas face the potential of more bushfires, which Philpott warned could see the end of the species.

‘If the areas that didn’t burn last year burn this year, that would really be catastrophic. Future fires could spell the end of them,’ he said.

The endangerment of koala bears has caused a political divide in the country after new state laws in New South Wales set out to try and limit farmers’ abilities to clear koala habitats.

Kellie Leigh, who works as head of Science for Wildlife at a conservation organisation, said:

The rate of tree-clearing and loss of habitats are behind all of the other factors that threaten them in those developed areas which include domestic dog attacks and vehicle strikes.

https://news.yahoo.com/wider-image-disease-bushfires-australias-043323102.html

http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202010/20/WS5f8e3bdba31024ad0ba7fb87.html

https://www.scmp.com/video/asia/3106183/after-bushfire-crisis-australias-koalas-fight-survive

video

https://www.wptv.com/news/world/koalas-fight-for-survival-after-devastating-wildfires-in-australia

https://www.sightmagazine.com.au/news/17563-from-disease-to-bushfires-australia-s-iconic-koalas-face-bleak-future

Regenerate Australia:

https://www.eglobaltravelmedia.com.au/wwf-launches-largest-wildlife-and-nature-regeneration-program-in-australias-history/

In response to the bushfire crisis, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia today launched Regenerate Australia, the largest wildlife and nature regeneration program in the nation’s history.

WWF-Australia will kick-start its “Regenerate Australia” program with Koalas Forever, an ambitious project with the goal to double koala numbers on the east coast by 2050. As part of the campaign drones will disperse the seeds of koala food trees. This is one important method being trialled to boost populations, helping hundreds of other species in the process.

At the same time, WWF-Australia will launch the Innovate to Regenerate project, consisting of two global challenges offering $3 million to develop bold solutions to turbocharge nature’s recovery.

Koalas Forever and Innovate to Regenerate are the first WWF-Australia projects ... WWF-Australia aims to raise $300 million over the next five years.

https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2020/10/the-plan-is-initially-aiming-to-double-the-number-of-koalas-on-the-east-coast-by-2050/

https://kyrnews.com/wwf-australia-drones-to-drop-seeds-for-koala-gum-bushes/

https://dispatchpublicist24.com/general-news/australias-koalas-face-a-bleak-future

Along with all these destructive forces, koalas had to face droughts, forest logging as well as urban encroachment into their habitats. In New South Wales, koalas are at risk of becoming extinct. There have been new state laws implemented to limit the farmer’s abilities to clear the land deemed important for koala habitat.

WWF Australia wants to raise A$300 in the next five years to fund the initiative to try the seed drones and other methods to rejuvenate forest habitat. They also want to double koala numbers on the east coast.

Koalas adapting to urban life:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/how-the-hell-disturbing-truth-behind-photos-of-koalas-in-suburbia-093816670.html

Images of koalas finding their way into factories, strolling along railway lines, and climbing up power poles have been shared thousands of times on social media this year.

Frontline volunteers told Yahoo News Australia koalas have lost their homes to development and simply have nowhere else to go.

When trees are felled, Australia’s scattered surviving koalas end up homeless and are later discovered on power poles and roads.

Sadly, rescuers say they are often called to assist the same displaced animals again and again.

“Our koala's are running out of space,” she wrote.

... urban life adapting to Flying Foxes:

https://www.dungogchronicle.com.au/story/6976029/have-your-say-on-flying-foxes/

Residents are invited to have a say on how Dungog Shire Council plans to handle flying fox camps.

The council has created a flying fox management plan to reduce the community impacts of the nine camps dotted throughout the shire.

"The 2019/2020 summer bushfires resulted in significant loss of habitat and food resources for flying foxes, which saw population numbers swell in several local camps, resulting in increased impacts for surrounding residents.

"Our aim is to create a management plan that will provide a framework to help reduce these impacts on Dungog Shire residents, while conserving these animals and supporting the pivotal role they play in sustaining Australia's fragile ecosystem."

Invertebrates get a look in:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/just-like-a-freight-train-cicadas-song-hints-at-bushfire-bounceback-20201021-p5676s.html

That still leaves at least 70 per cent – or perhaps 500 or more Australian cicada species – to be named, he said.

Professor Cassis said now is "an important opportunity" to see if the bushfires have caused major changes to the biota, with some species faring better than others.

UNSW this week received more than $1 million in federal support to fund two projects aimed at assisting the recovery of wildlife after the bushfires.

The larger of the two grants will study how the fires affected invertebrates, from beetles to snails and bees, many of which provide essential services to the forests from pollination to nutrient recycling, UNSW's Professor Shawn Laffan said.

Much of this area was previously surveyed for invertebrates by UNSW and the Australian Museum, including a study of the North East Forests in 1993, giving researchers a baseline for comparison.

The other study will examine how the fires affected reptiles in the sandstone landscapes around Sydney.

Big Canopy Campout:

https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/environment/forest-activists-take-to-the-trees-ng-s-2034374

Conservationists have taken to the trees across several states as part of global action to protect Tasmania's Tarkine Forest.

Those taking part have hoisted their tents high into tree branches this weekend at 112 locations in 24 countries.

The Big Canopy Campout will also focus attention on other threatened forests in Victoria and NSW, with activists in the Gladstone State Forest in Northern NSW.

"The local community have been blockading here for years and watched NSW Forestry Corporation ramp up their destructive extraction from the forest while we were evacuating or fighting fires," camper Ruby Oliver-King said.

"Recently Gumbaynggirr Conservation Group and community allies have successfully kept Forestry Corp from commencing logging in over a third of the forest."

Back to their old ways:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/unacceptable-timber-battles-resume-in-fire-hit-south-coast-forests-20201016-p565xi.html

State-owned Forestry Corp has been accused of committing the same logging breaches in a bushfire-hit South Coast forest that triggered a lengthy stop work order by the environmental regulator.

After members of the local conservation group Coastwatchers reported evidence of non-compliance, the EPA took 38 days to investigate and issue a stop work order for the contractors to improve operations.

Logging resumed just over a week ago and within days the campaigners found evidence of more felling of the hollow-bearing trees, known to be suitable habitat for yellow-bellied gliders, powerful owls and other fauna.

An EPA spokesman told the Sun-Herald the "initial indications are that the trees in question are likely to be compliant, subject to final review", but the agency would remain on the watch for breaches.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-21/nsw-forestry-post-bushfire-logging-despite-community-concerns/12776112

New sections of burnt-out native forest in the Shoalhaven have been earmarked for logging less than a year after bushfires destroyed more than 80 per cent of the region's bush.

EPA chief executive Tracey Mackey wrote an open letter to Forestry and the Department of Regional NSW in September stating that any logging done without post-fire specific regulations would pose a major threat to wildlife and could be a breach of NSW forestry laws.

Brooman resident Takesa Frank has started a campaign to stop any new logging.

"The forest needs time to recover before they come back," Ms Frank said.

In July, conditions were breached and the EPA issued a stop work order for 40 days after 26 hollow-bearing trees were found to have been cut down or damaged.

"It's frustrating to me, the EPA is actually saying don't log these forests under poor conditions, it's going to destroy the recovery of those forests," Mr Field said.

"The community agrees with that position and Forestry is trying to come in anyway."

Tassie challenge proceeding:

https://www.townandcountrymagazine.com.au/story/6975799/bob-brown-forestry-case-set-for-full-bench-of-federal-court/

The Bob Brown Foundation's legal challenge against the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement has been expedited and will appear before a full bench of the Federal Court before December 18.

The case centres on two main arguments against the validity of the Tasmanian RFA.

The first is that it does not include "legally binding relations" over reserve systems and ecologically sustainable forest management, and the second is that it allows the Tasmanian Government to amend these matters at its own discretion.

https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/6978885/court-date-set-for-bob-brown-forestry-case/

A legal challenge against Sustainable Timber Tasmania will be heard in the Federal Court of Australia on December 2 and 3.

Due to its complexity, the hearing will appear before a full bench of the Federal Court rather than a single Federal Court Judge.

The hearing will be online only.

Morrison, facilitating environmental illiteracy:

https://theconversation.com/devastating-the-morrison-government-cuts-uni-funding-for-environment-courses-by-almost-30-147852?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201760617061&utm_content=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201760617061+CID_21edccfba3980e344a3cf5684881d2a0&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Devastating%20The%20Morrison%20government%20cuts%20uni%20funding%20for%20environment%20courses%20by%20almost%2030

There has been much attention on how the Morrison government’s university funding reforms will increase the cost of humanities degrees. But another devastating change has passed almost unnoticed: a 29% cut to funding to environmental studies courses. This is one of the largest funding cuts to any university course.

Universities will receive almost A$10,000 less funding per year for each student undertaking environmental studies.

The funding cuts may also lower the quality of experiences offered to students or require cross-subsidisation. Some universities may also deem environmental studies courses unviable, and close them, while prioritising higher revenue-generating courses.

The change may also likely to lead to fewer staff, with specialist expertise in areas such as geospatial science, water chemistry and fire management. This will lead to smaller teaching teams with less expertise, who will in turn face increased teaching loads and less time for quality research.

Indonesian forests under wholesale onslaught:

https://www.thestar.com.my/aseanplus/aseanplus-news/2020/10/23/greenpeace-44m-hectares-of-indonesia039s-forests-scorched-since-2015

JAKARTA, Oct 23 (dpa): Indonesia has lost about 4.4 million hectares of forests and peatlands to fires since 2015, according to a report released by Greenpeace on Thursday night (Oct 23).

About 30 per cent of areas burned between 2015 and 2019 are located in palm oil and pulpwood concessions, the environmental group wrote in the report titled "Burning Issues: Five Years of Fire."

Last year, fires destroyed 1.6 million hectares of land and forests - an area 27 times the size of greater Jakarta - in the worst annual fire season since 2015.

Greenpeace said a new law initiated by President Joko Widodo's government and passed by parliament last month could undermine environmental safeguards and worsen the risk of fires.

"When the government gave palm and pulp business companies a role in drafting this bill, it was like giving a hungry fox the keys to the hen house. Now they can act with even greater impunity," the environmental organisation said.

The government said the law, which has triggered nationwide street protests after it was passed, was intended to attract investment and cut red tape.

https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2020/10/23/nearly-a-third-of-indonesia-forest-fires-fall-in-pulp-palm-areas-greenpeace.html

Accounting for forest carbon:

https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/forestrys-climate-impact-invisible-under-un-rules-experts-say/

Forests are the planet’s biggest carbon “sink” – absorbing more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit – but their contribution to cooling the earth’s climate is currently not fully accounted for under UN rules, experts say.

The European Commission rang the alarm bell about the state of EU forests last month, saying their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming – has been decreasing since 2013 and needs to be restored.

What is currently not reflected in EU policy, however, is the “carbon sink” function of forests and agriculture, Runge-Metzger pointed out, saying the Commission is currently looking into ways of rewarding farmers and forest owners for maintaining carbon sinks.

“So the question really is: how can we make sure that we count what’s happening on the sink side” and “put a value” on carbon sinks, he continued. “And that is something we are exploring with the farmers” as part of a new EU “carbon farming initiative” which aims to reward farming practices that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

https://www.stabroeknews.com/2020/10/23/business/un-affiliated-conservation-group-pushes-for-forests-to-be-at-centre-of-covid-19-recovery-effort/

A fifteen-member group of international organisations concerned with ensuring that issues of forest conservation and the greening of economies remain at the heart of the human development agenda, last week made a high-profile international appeal for forests and tree landscapes to be brought to the centre of the global building back effort “for a more resilient and sustainable future.”

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests, (CPF), a partnership which includes the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF Secretariat), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), says that “forests and tree landscapes should be at the heart of the building back better after the COVID-19 pandemic for a more resilient and sustainable future.”

Making logging fashionable:

https://www.ecotextile.com/2020102026881/materials-production-news/call-for-forest-fibres-to-be-sourced-sustainably.html

GENEVA - The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the need to source natural fibres, such as viscose, acetate and lyocell, from sustainably managed forests.

The international non-profit, which promotes sustainable forest management through independent third party certification, says it wants to reduce the enviornmental impact of the fashion industry.

The campaign, entitled ‘Fashions Change, Forests Stay’, argues that forest fibres have a huge potential to help the fashion industry on its sustainability journey, but must be sourced responsibly.

https://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/textile-news/pefc-launches-fashions-change-forests-stay-campaign-270501-newsdetails.htm

PEFC, the world’s largest forest certification organisation, is launching the campaign to draw attention to the value of sourcing natural forest fibres such as viscose, acetate and lyocell from sustainably managed forests to transform the environmental impact of the fashion industry and support the vitality of the world’s forests.

“We look forward to work with fashion brands and retailers and help them maximise their impact through sustainable forest management. Together, we can make a difference for the future of the fashion industry, our forests and the world,” Gunneberg said.


Forest Media 16 October 2020

EPA's pending prosecution of Forestry Corporation is still gaining attention. As tableland forests succumb to drought so to do Koalas, and there are grave concerns that flying foxes will have trouble finding nectar after the fires. Its not sharks you need to be worried about, with cats responsible for killing 550 people a year and putting 8,500 in hospitals they are the real threat. More attesting that our reserve system is still nowhere near adequate to save our species, while the Morrison Government's park funding is for tourism. Climate scientist extols us to acknowledge our grief at the loss of the planet’s equilibrium due to climate chaos and use our emotional response to propel us into urgent action. The need for natural climate solutions, notably protecting what is left of our forests and encouraging natural regeneration, is increasingly recognised as urgent to solve both our climate and extinction crises. CSIRO confirm protecting native forests is by far the least risky natural climate solution, followed by natural regeneration, wheras the Morisson Government's soil sequestration preference has a high risk of failure. In Australia nearly half of land-based ecoregions and threatened species are inadequately protected in the reserve system, while Federal expenditure on reserves is focused on tourism. Timber industry seeks to have their shoddy auditing extended to national parks, while with gay abandon they increase flammability of forests in the guise of fire control, and then flog the survivors in burnt forests to within an inch of their lives. Toilet paper is being held to account. Trees are way cool. Virtual forest bathing is being promoted due to the pandemic, while clearing and logging create deathly viral forest bathing pandemics, and playing creates healthy vital forest bathing.

Regards

Dailan

More on EPA Prosecution:

https://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/conservationists-praise-epas-prosecution-of-forest/4116364/?cspt=1602450070|4deb84236436045703681ece957a4d7f

CONSERVATIONISTS have praised NSW EPA for launching prosecutions against Forestry Corporation for allegedly felling trees in protected koala habitat.

NEFA spokesperson Dailin Pugh pointed out that the prosecutions come after the EPA issued a Stop Work Order over the felling of two protected giant trees in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest in July 2020.

“It is past time to stop logging these known koala hotspots if we want koalas to survive,” he said.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/10/better-late-than-never-for-wild-cattle-creek/

The North East Forest Alliance has welcomed the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA’s) belated prosecution of the Forestry Corporation for illegally logging rainforest, rainforest buffers and Koala High Use Areas in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.

‘After 20 years of getting away with murder the Forestry Corporation is finally being held to account. Their illegal activities have flourished under lax regulation for far too long, we can only hope that by finally holding them to account that they will start obeying the law.

Mr Pugh said this has unfortunately come too late for the koala as the requirement to protect Koala High Use Areas was abandoned in 2018 because the Forestry Corporation refused to do the thorough surveys required to identify them and the EPA refused to make them.

‘Taking legal action now over one of the few Koala High Use Areas identified is like shutting the door after the horse has bolted.

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/the-environmental-protection-agency-vs-forestry-corporation-nsw-over-koala-exclusion-zones-60021

... and some media are a bit slow:

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/forest-defenders-face-court-after-protest-in-wild-cattle-creek-state-forest-60099

Ms Maddie Stephenson, Mr Neville Kirk and Mr Huon Hannaford pleaded guilty to the offences of ‘Hide tools/clothes/property to unlawfully influence person’ and ‘Fail to leave area on being requested by authorised officer’.

Ms Tia Latif pleaded guilty to the offence of ‘Unlawfully enter inclosed non-agricultural lands interfere with conduct of business’.

Ms. Sue Higginson, the solicitor representing the defendants said, “It doesn’t seem to matter how many letters are written or how many legal protests are held but logging continues, despite the need to protect wildlife habitat and that the science is clear that forests are needed to mitigate climate change.”

In court, Ms. Higginson referred to a precedent under Queensland law that referenced a quote from a House of Lords case that said, in part, ‘People who break the law to affirm their belief in the injustice of a law or government action are sometimes vindicated by history’.

There is provision under NSW sentencing laws for first-time offenders who plead guilty early for the magistrate to not record a conviction.

Ms. Stephenson was given an 18-month good behaviour bond while Mr. Hannaford and Ms. Latif received 15-month bonds, without convictions.

When the magistrate offered an 18-month good behaviour bond, Mr. Kirk indicated that he might still need to take action if needed. He was convicted and fined $750.

Drought kills trees and Koalas:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-11/school-growing-trees-save-koala-drought-bushfire/12743570

However, in the town of Delungra in north New South Wales, the animals have the locals on their side.

But after dozens of trees around town died during the latest drought, local koala habitat was looking increasingly scarce.

Students have now taken the recovery effort into their own hands by growing trees for the town in their new greenhouse.

"Teaching is a privilege, with kids, and it's so great to be able to give them the gift of actually believing that they have power to change things," she said.

Environmental consultant John Lemon has researched koalas in the nearby region of Gunnedah for decades.

Between 2009 and 2019, he said a warming climate and disease had driven koala populations in the region down by as much as 75 per cent.

"What happens when koalas are stressed, chlamydia, which is endemic, presents itself, and they just die, it's terrible," he said.

"In some of the rocky ridges we've lost in excess of 50 per cent of the stringy barks and some of the eucalypt species, as well as other species," he said.

"That's just from drought, not from bushfires. To my knowledge there hasn't been much on-ground work to determine how many trees we've lost out of the landscape."

Focus on Macarthur-Campbelltown Koalas:

https://www.wollondillyadvertiser.com.au/story/6964419/global-activist-group-visits-macarthur-to-highlight-koala-plight/?cs=1552

The Red Rebels visited Macarthur after contacting community campaigner Sue Gay about the plight of the region's koalas.

Mrs Gay said the activists wanted to raise awareness about the struggles faced by koalas due to development in the region.

"They were simply wanting to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of development on our koala population," she said.

https://www.wollondillyadvertiser.com.au/story/6968530/nsw-government-fast-tracks-controversial-260-home-appin-development/

The NSW Government has fast-tracked a controversial, 260-home development at Macquariedale Road in Appin.

The Department of Planning website states that the $70.6 million project was fast-tracked "to inject investment into the NSW economy and keep people in jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic".

"The council gave a lot of consideration to this proposal but determined not to support it due to concerns about infrastructure servicing.

"The NSW Government has now approved the land for housing, opening the way for the landowner to submit a DA.

Appin resident Sue Gay said she was shocked and horrified to learn that the development had been fast-tracked by the government.

She said she held grave concerns for Appin's koalas because part of the development had been identified as a koala corridor.

"The community don't want it and the council don't want it, so it's pretty upsetting," she said.

https://www.miragenews.com/an-update-on-mt-gilead/

Campbelltown councillors and the public were last night given an update on the actions being taken to protect the local koala population as part of the Draft Biodiversity Certification Application for Mt Gilead Stage Two.

Since then, the proponent commissioned a report to clarify the necessary size of the koala movement corridors, which was peer reviewed by Dr Steve Phillips on the request of Council.

The findings of these reports concluded that for the preservation of koalas and the provision of suitable and viable habitat, the corridor habitat would require a width ranging from 425m to a minimum width of 250m, resulting in an average corridor width of 350m.

Safe crossing points across Appin Road have been recommended at key fauna corridor linkages as well as protection fencing along Appin Road.

Another Koala story:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/australia-s-koalas-under-threat-from-climate-change-and-urban-13287064

Does protecting the south-east increase logging in north-east:

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/6961781/concerns-over-rapid-increase-in-north-east-logging/

STT entered into the undertaking voluntarily after the Bob Brown Foundation submitted an injunction application which would have prevented logging in 19 coupes in the state's south.

But Blue Derby Wild, an organisation working to protect native forests in the North-East, still holds concerns that logging coupes which were not scheduled for logging until 2021/2022 are being logged this year.

She said they have seen coupes which weren't scheduled to be logged this year being moved into immediate production.

However, an audit of the company against Forest Stewardship guidelines earlier this year found major shortcomings. It found the company had ignore the advice of swift parrot experts, harvested too close to swift parrot nesting sites, and improperly harvested old growth forests under Forest Stewardship guidelines, among other things.

Warning for Flying Foxes:

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/loss-of-forest-habitat-from-the-devastating-bushfires-continues-to-impact-flying-fox-populations-on-the-mid-north-coast-60147

While local flying-foxes were able to fly away from the last bushfire event, their natural food sources of native eucalyptus and hardwood blossoms were decimated.

“After the bushfires wiped out a lot of their food sources, we are expecting to see many malnourished bats come into care,” Rianna told News Of The Area.

Rianna said, “From July 2019 we had a mass starvation event before the bushfires, all along the east coast of NSW and QLD.”

“Things that were supposed to be flowering weren’t, and we were thrown into a heartbreaking six months for the flying-foxes and other blossom-eating wildlife like possums and birds.”

How cats control human populations:

https://theconversation.com/cats-carry-diseases-that-can-be-deadly-to-humans-and-its-costing-australia-6-billion-every-year-147910?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2016%202020%20-%201759817055&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2016%202020%20-%201759817055+CID_23908d7f6c1b5bf190804bfe90b1605b&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Cats%20carry%20diseases%20that%20can%20be%20deadly%20to%20humans%20and%20its%20costing%20Australia%206%20billion%20every%20year

Toxoplasmosis, cat roundworm and cat scratch disease are caused by pathogens that depend on cats — pets or feral — for part of their life cycle. But these diseases can be passed to humans, sometimes with severe health consequences.

In our study published today in the journal Wildlife Research, we looked at the rates of these diseases in Australia, their health effects, and the costs to our economy.

Our estimations suggest more than 8,500 Australians are hospitalised and about 550 die annually from causes linked to these diseases.

We calculated the economic cost of these pathogens in Australia at more than A$6 billion per year based on the costs of medical care for affected people, lost income from time off work, and other related expenses.

Some 700,000 feral cats and another 2.7 million pet cats roam our towns and suburbs acting as reservoirs of these diseases.

Progress toward an adequate reserve system:

https://theconversation.com/how-much-the-budget-undervalued-conservation-16-world-heritage-sites-received-less-than-sydney-harbour-147663?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201753816992&utm_content=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201753816992+CID_7413145f8f69e3eb7cdead76c6e7c1ca&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=How%20much%20the%20budget%20undervalued%20conservation%2016%20World%20Heritage%20sites%20received%20less%20than%20Sydney%20Harbour

Our global research published in Nature yesterday found between 2010 and 2019, protected areas expanded from covering 14.1% to 15.3% of global land and freshwater environments (excluding Antarctica), and from 2.9% to 7.5% of marine environments.

In Australia, we found nearly half of land-based ecoregions and threatened species have inadequate protections.

The Coalition government’s federal budget allocated A$233.4 million to six Commonwealth-run national parks — but most will be spent on tourism infrastructure upgrades.

Australia’s protected area estate is not immune to these management shortfalls. Between 1997 and 2014, there were more than 1,500 legal changes in Australia that eased restrictions, reduced boundaries or eliminated legal protections in protected areas.

Our research also showed less than 1% of the geographic ranges of the orange-bellied frog (Geocrinia vitellina), carpentarian dunnart (Sminthopsis butleri) and upriver orange mangrove (Bruguiera sexangula) — all threatened species — are protected.

Australia’s 16 natural World Heritage sites will receive just A$33.5 million — less than the $40.6 million promised to maintain and restore historical sites across Sydney Harbour.

Timber industry seeks to have their auditing extended to national parks:

https://www.gippslandtimes.com.au/story/6964284/forestry-leaders-audit-management-of-all-reserves-and-parks-not-just-production-forests/

RESPONSIBLE Wood has welcomed a suggestion by forestry leaders that all forests, including parks and reserves, should be certified to find out how well they are being managed.

Simon Dorries, chief executive of Responsible Wood - the Australian arm of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the world's largest certification system - said the certification standard was designed not only for production areas, but also for reserved areas.

"You don't have to manage just for timber production.

"There are the economic and social aspects, the provision of employment for local communities, public access where appropriate and making sure those processes are managed."

Grief for the state of our world is growing:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/15/the-great-unravelling-i-never-thought-id-live-to-see-the-horror-of-planetary-collapse

[Joëlle Gergis] The truth is, everything in life has its breaking point. My fear is that the planet’s equilibrium has been lost; we are now watching on as the dominoes begin to cascade. With just 1.1C of warming, Australia has already experienced unimaginable levels of destruction of its marine and land ecosystems in the space of a single summer. More than 20% of our country’s forests burnt in a single bushfire season. Virtually the entire range of the Great Barrier Reef cooked by one mass bleaching event. But what really worries me is what our Black Summer signals about the conditions that are yet to come. As things stand, the latest research shows that Australia could warm up to 7C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. If we continue along our current path, climate models show an average warming of 4.5C, with a range of 2.7–6.2C by 2100.

The revised warming projections for Australia will render large parts of our country uninhabitable and the Australian way of life unliveable, as extreme heat and increasingly erratic rainfall establishes itself as the new normal. Researchers who conducted an analysis of the conditions experienced during our Black Summer concluded “under a scenario where emissions continue to grow, such a year would be average by 2040 and exceptionally cool by 2060.”

I often despair that everything the scientific community is trying to do to help avert disaster is falling on deaf ears. Instead, we hear the federal government announcing policies ensuring the protection of fossil fuel industries, justifying pathetic emission targets that will doom Australia to an apocalyptic nightmare of a future.

As more psychologists begin to engage with the topic of climate change, they are telling us that being willing to acknowledge our personal and collective grief might be the only way out of the mess we are in. When we are finally willing to accept feelings of intense grief – for ourselves, our planet, our kids’ futures – we can use the intensity of our emotional response to propel us into action.

Something inside me feels like it has snapped, as if some essential thread of hope has failed. The knowing that sometimes things can’t be saved, that the planet is dying, that we couldn’t get it together in time to save the irreplaceable. It feels as though we have reached the point in human history when all the trees in the global common are finally gone, our connection to the wisdom of our ancestors lost forever.

As ecosystems and species collapse around us, we know that natural climate solutions can help save them and us:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/14/re-wild-to-mitigate-the-climate-crisis-urge-leading-scientists

Restoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation can be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations, a scientific study finds.

If a third of the planet’s most degraded areas were restored, and protection was thrown around areas still in good condition, that would store carbon equating to half of all human caused greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution.

The changes would prevent about 70% of predicted species extinctions, according to the research, which is published in the journal Nature.

Alexander Lees, senior lecturer in biodiversity at Manchester Metropolitan University, who was also not involved with the study, said: “[This] analysis indicates that we can take massive strides towards mitigating the loss of species and increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide by restoring just 15% of converted lands. The global community needs to commit to this pact to give back to nature post-haste – it’s the deal of the century, and like most good deals available for a limited time only.”

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13102020/targeted-ecosystem-restoration-nature-study-climate-biodiversity

Protecting 30 percent of the priority areas identified by the new study could save the majority of mammals, amphibians and birds that are dying out and would soak up about 465 billion tons of carbon dioxide, equal to nearly half of the CO2 that has built up in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age.

But such a restoration plan isn't a substitute for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which is still the highest priority for limiting global warming, and the CO2-reducing climate benefits from healing ecosystems aren't immediate—they would accrue over many decades to come, said co-author Thomas Brooks, chief scientist for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

"It's really important to be honest, not to kid ourselves that there are perfect solutions to address all the challenges," he said. "We show that ecosystem restoration targeted in the right places can deliver enormous benefits to biodiversity and climate."
"I think people sometimes underestimate how much of climate change is due to land use, like the burning of the Amazon and the conversion loss of forests to agriculture," she said. "This study is complementary to the goal of avoiding more destruction. It set priorities for restoration."

... our token efforts back the least effective natural climate solutions:

https://reneweconomy.com.au/csiro-report-questions-morrisons-faith-in-soil-carbon-due-to-warming-climate-65935/

Global warming could undermine the ability of soil carbon to act as a way to store emissions, with warmer temperatures compromising both the amount of carbon stored and the long-term permanence of that storage, according to a new research report from the CSIRO.

The CSIRO has prepared a new assessment of the risks posed by climate change to six different types of carbon abatement and storage, including agricultural soil carbon storage, the re-establishment of native forest cover, the planting of new forests and the protection of existing forests.

Under the technology roadmap, the Morrison government will aim to reduce the costs of monitoring the amount of carbon stored in Australia’s soils, and currently offers to purchase emissions reduction from soil carbon projects under the Emissions Reduction Fund.

So far, vegetation projects, soil carbon storage and savanna management project represent around three-quarters of the projects registered under the Australian government’s Emissions Reduction Fund, and around two-thirds of the abatement generated under the scheme.

It is an ironic assessment that suggests one of the Morrison government’s priority technologies identified as key to reducing Australia’s emissions could ultimately be impacted by climate change.

Senior researcher from the Climate Council, Tim Baxter, said the report confirmed some of the major challenges of relying upon soil carbon as a way of reducing emissions, particularly as it did not address the primary sources of emissions, including the use of fossil fuels.

https://www.climatechangeauthority.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-10/ERF%20Review%20-%20CSIRO%20Technical%20Report%20on%20Climate%20Risk%20-%20Final%20pdf.pdf

Sequestration activities require carbon to be stored in the landscape over the long-term. ...  Because of the permanence requirements, there are therefore risks associated with ensuring both the establishment and ongoing maintenance of the stored carbon. .

The index suggests Management of agricultural soils and Planting of new forests have the highest composite risk rating (Figure S1a). This is followed by Savanna fire management, Management of intertidal ecosystems and Re-establishment of native forest cover, with intermediate values. Protection of existing forests has the lowest risk rating.

Feeling the heat, plant trees:

https://www.statepress.com/article/2020/10/sppolitics-asu-researchers-address-extreme-heat-after-record-breaking-summer

Mark Hartman, the chief sustainability officer for the city of Phoenix, said Maricopa County officials are working together with researchers to make Phoenix a "HeatReady" city, a program that takes actions like planting more trees and installing "cool" concrete.

According to Hartman, Maricopa County has recently started planting over 4,500 trees per year to create more shade, an increase from the 1,000 trees being planted when the Tree and Shade Master Plan was passed in 2010 to make a Phoenix an "urban forest."

In addition to shade, urban forests help to improve air quality, manage stormwater and reduce energy costs.

So far this year, 134 people died of heat associated reasons and 212 suspected heat-related deaths are under investigation, according to a report from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. This is a potential increase from the 197 heat associated deaths in 2019.

"Beyond the people who died, we know there are many more people who get sick and go to the hospital requiring formal medical treatment," Hondula said. "And many more people have some sort of adverse impact on their quality of life and well-being because of the heat."

This year, Arizona experienced 53 days above 110 degrees, an increase from the previous record set in 2011 of 33 days, according to tweets from the National Weather Service Phoenix. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported nearly 2,000 people have died from "excessive exposure to heat" in Arizona from 2009-2019, and around 3,000 people a year visit an emergency room due to heat illness.

Flogging burnt forests to death:

https://www.miragenews.com/new-benchmark-to-protect-biodiversity-after-bushfires/

A new study has found up to three quarters of damaged forest needs to be protected from logging after major natural disasters, in order to preserve its biodiversity.

According to co-author Professor David Lindenmayer from The Australian National University (ANU), “naturally disturbed” forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world.

The study found around 75 per cent of an impacted area need to be left unlogged to maintain the majority (90 per cent) of its richness of unique species.

In contrast, leaving 50 per cent of the forest unlogged only protects 73 per cent of the area’s unique species richness.

“The importance of these unlogged areas didn’t increase or decrease within the first 20 years after salvage logging,” Professor Lindenmayer said.

“In some cases, forests might need several centuries to regrow crucial elements like trees with hollows.”

It has been published in Nature Communications.

Its not just in Australia that loggers try to capitalize on the disaster they are creating:

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/10/09/wildfire-safety-starts-with-communities-not-logging-forests/

Another harrowing fire season and devastating losses of lives and homes sound an urgent alarm that California’s wildfire policy — focused on logging forests in the backcountry — isn’t working.

The good news is that a road map exists for fire policy that truly protects communities. Step one: Make houses and communities more fire-safe. Step two: Stop building new developments in fire-prone areas. Step three: Take strong action to fight climate change.

For years, state and federal wildfire policies have promoted logging of our forests. Under overly broad terms like forest management, thinning and fuels reduction, these policies do the bidding of the timber industry and entrenched agencies that are invested in cutting down trees. Yet, as more money has poured into logging, we’ve witnessed the unprecedented loss of lives and homes.

The 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the Butte County city of Paradise spread most rapidly through areas that had been heavily logged, and we’re seeing the same patterns in this year’s fires.

study covering three decades and 1,500 fires, co-authored by one of my colleagues at the Center for Biological Diversity, found that the most heavily logged areas experience the most intense fire. That isn’t surprising given that cutting down trees creates more exposed, hotter, drier conditions and promotes the spread of highly flammable invasive grasses.

https://wkzo.com/2020/10/08/california-needs-forests-to-fight-climate-change-but-they-are-going-up-in-smoke/

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California's record wildfires pose a problem for the state's plan to use its forests to help offset climate-warming emissions.

This year, a record 4 million acres in California have burned, releasing decades of stored carbon into the atmosphere. That amounts to more than 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide ... That is equivalent to nearly half the state's annual human-caused emissions.

Between 2001 and 2014, California's forests and natural lands lost an amount of carbon equivalent to 511 million metric tons of CO2 emissions ... Wildfires accounted for three-quarters of that carbon release from forests, while logging and tree pruning as part of forest management made up the rest, state records show.

If the state's carbon price of about $17 per metric ton were applied to this year's estimated wildfire emissions, that would work out to roughly $3.4 billion in potential carbon market value up in smoke.

In August, California announced an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to reduce wildfire risk in part by using controlled burns and other means to clear 1 million acres of dead wood and other debris each year up to 2025. The deal also seeks to develop markets for woody biomass and a comprehensive statewide plan for forest management that will last 20 years.

The plan is aimed at protecting large trees in particular, which absorb and store carbon over hundreds of years.

Capitalists back climate mitigation:

https://theconversation.com/some-say-neoliberals-have-destroyed-the-world-but-now-they-want-to-save-it-is-scott-morrison-listening-148167?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2016%202020%20-%201759817055&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2016%202020%20-%201759817055+CID_23908d7f6c1b5bf190804bfe90b1605b&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Some%20say%20neoliberals%20have%20destroyed%20the%20world%20but%20now%20they%20want%20to%20save%20it%20Is%20Scott%20Morrison%20listening

The International Monetary Fund this week delivered a somewhat surprising message. It warned Earth was on course for “potentially catastrophic” damage under climate change, and called for green investment and carbon prices to put the global economy on a stronger, more sustainable footing.

Of course, the message itself makes a lot of sense. The surprising part is that the IMF is the outfit delivering it.

The Washington-based IMF cannot be dismissed as a bunch of latte-sipping leftists.

It warned policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were “grossly insufficient to date” and global temperatures could increase by up to 5℃ by the end of this century. This would lead to “physical and economic damage, and increasing the risk of catastrophic outcomes across the planet”.

So in other words, the IMF recognises that now is a good time to undertake green investment, because it has long-term benefits and can act as a useful short-term stimulus.

It’s clear Australia is being left on the wrong side of history. And when even the IMF starts calling for dramatic climate action, Australia starts looking more isolated than ever.

https://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/articles/shades-of-reddwhy-the-world-needs-both-projects-and-policies-to-save-forests/

Demand for nature-based carbon credits is growing. This is encouraging. But progress is threatened by conflicting views on how best to design carbon credit schemes to stamp out deforestation. At one end of the debate are those arguing that governments must lead the way through policy. At the other end is a view that private sector investments in site-scale activities, or projects, are key to protecting forests.

This ideological debate stands in the way of the action the world urgently needs. In fact, if this debate keeps being conducted in a partisan manner, it risks turning off potential buyers of high-quality nature-based credits. This could, for example, result in a situation where planting new trees in developed countries is prioritized over avoiding the loss of biodiverse, carbon-rich, primary forests in developing countries.

So how to move forward? Nature-based carbon credits have a critical and immediate role to play in limiting global warming, when used in addition to other efforts that avoid and reduce emissions – like solar, wind, and hydrogen.

For a positive impact now, we need both policy-based and site-specific activities, and neither approach should hold the other hostage. Reforming forest governance takes time; it is challenging to overcome powerful interests that are often behind forest destruction. Projects can move more quickly and, as such, should contribute now to national climate targets and national aspirations for the forest sector.

What are forests best for?:

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/surprising-investor-rebellion-at-procter-gamble-over-toilet-papers-forest-impact-2020-10-15

Two-thirds of Procter & Gamble’s shareholders this week defied the company’s own recommendations, upping the pressure on the consumer-goods giant to reduce sourcing virgin timber for its Charmin toilet paper, Puffs tissues, Bounty paper towels and more.

Some 67% of shareholders voted yes on Green Century Equity Fund’s shareholder proposal, which read “shareholders request P&G issue a report assessing if and how it could increase the scale, pace, and rigor of its efforts to eliminate deforestation and the degradation of intact forests in its supply chains.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/10/14/bb-pg-shareholders-push-board-to-publish-report-on-deforestation

Prior to the vote, P&G Chief Executive Officer David Taylor defended the company’s practices, saying the company is “a leader not a laggard” on sustainability. He also said the company has to find ways to balance consumer demand for softer, premium tissue with sustainability questions.

Competitor Kimberly-Clark Corp. has revamped its climate goals to address its sourcing. The company has said it will reduce its sourcing of wood fibers from forests such as the Boreal by 50% by 2025.

Virtual Forest Bathing:

https://www.khon2.com/living-808/forest-bathing-hawaii-hosts-virtual-tours-to-help-destress-individuals-working-from-home/

“When we walk together along easy trails under the forest canopy, I’ll invite you to touch and listen to the trees, to smell and taste what is in the wind, to notice what you are seeing as if for the first time. Slowly, time deepens and the stresses of the modern world fall away,” says Phyllis Look, founder of Forest Bathing Hawaii.

Look says, “During this time when many of us are experiencing heightened stress, disorientation, and a sense of isolation, these virtual forest bathing walks offer opportunities to connect to others, to yourself, and to the grace of the natural world.”

“These online meetings invite you to join from a safe and familiar outdoor space near you, or from inside your home. Our guides will be on a trail or at a green space on the island of Oʻahu and you’ll be able to experience Hawaiʻi’s natural and healing beauty through your screen,” says Look.

... and viral forest bathing:

https://opinion.inquirer.net/134350/forests-pandemics-and-money

The warning signs are everywhere. In the pursuit of “development,” humans have radically modified the natural world. Among the worst affected are the planet’s forest ecosystems. The world has lost about 40 percent of its forests since the dawn of the industrial age.

In a recently published paper in the journal Nature, Gibb and coauthors (2020) analyzed almost 7,000 ecological communities worldwide and 376 host species of human diseases to find out if there is a link between ecosystem destruction and epidemics. Their findings showed that wildlife hosts of human pathogens and parasites are much greater in human-disturbed ecosystems, in some cases two times higher, compared to nearby pristine habitats. This trend is especially true for rodents, bats, and perching birds. As we know by now, COVID-19 likely came from bats originally through an intermediary animal. These findings suggest the need to temper the rampant conversion of natural systems to other land uses. Failure to do so will increasingly expose people to new forms of diseases.

At the individual level, the wise use of forest products like wood, paper, and yes, even ornamental plants, will translate to lesser pressure on forests.

The pandemic reminds us that taking care of our forests is literally a matter of life and death.

... and vital forest bathing:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/14/greener-play-areas-boost-childrens-immune-systems-research-finds

Children whose outdoor play areas were transformed from gravel yards to mini-forests showed improved immune systems within a month, research has shown.

The research is published in the journal Science Advances ...

In four centres, turf from natural forest floors, complete with dwarf shrubs, blueberries, crowberry, and mosses, were installed in previously bare play areas....

Tests after 28 days showed the diversity of microbes on the children’s skin was a third higher than for those still playing in gravel yards and was significantly increased in the gut. Blood samples showed beneficial changes to a range of proteins and cells related to the immune system, including anti-inflammatory cytokine and regulatory T cells.

A report in 2019 by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health concluded that grubbing around outside is important for building a robust immune system, but that cleanliness is still vital when people are preparing and eating food.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-forest-kids-daycare-boost-young.html

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8842817/Nature-Children-play-forests-parklands-stronger-immune-systems-study-suggests.html

    • The team found the kids kept diverse microbiota and got an immune boost
    • It is thought that exposure to microbes challenges the body's immune system 
    • This prevents autoimmune conditions like asthma, eczema and type 1 diabetes

Forest Media 9 October 2020

Wild Cattle Creek protesters found guilty of trying to save the world, while EPA mount first ever north-east NSW prosecution of Forestry Corporation for multiple breaches of threatened species laws. Berejiklian claims victory, while standing over the gutted corpse of the Koala SEPP.  Australia leads the developed world in land clearing and species extinction, though rather than resting on our laurels NSW intends to take it to new heights in the name of bushfire control. Lyrebirds are more effective at controlling fires than logging. Logging of south-east Queensland's State Forests to be stopped by 2024. Victoria funds its transition to plantations, though those god-bothering Feds are funding our transition to armageddon - while we are paying for it now our kids will pay far more! While the Feds throw millions after billions of your taxes on sham carbon capture and storage schemes, nature wants to do be allowed to do it for free, if only they would let it. In air nitrous oxide is no laughing matter.

Regards

Dailan

Wild Cattle Creek protesters plead guilty to trying to save the world:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-07/anti-logging-protesters-sentenced-over-site-of-logging-breach/12740990

Ms Higginson tendered evidence from the EPA that the area where the protest was held was among the areas where Forestry Corporation had breached logging laws by felling giant trees.

Magistrate David O'Neil agreed with the prosecution, and said it was not clear that the pair was aware of the alleged breaches at the time of the protest.

In sentencing Ms Stephenson, Magistrate O'Neil sympathised with her protest goal to promote action on climate change that he said needed "to be addressed urgently".

The 28-year-old was sentenced to an 18-month conditional release order without conviction.

Magistrate O'Neil told the court he was prepared to hand down the same sentence for Mr Kirk, despite his criminal history in Western Australia that included drug and assault offences.

But Mr Kirk addressed the magistrate directly and turned down the charge.

"If it comes up again, I will do it for my country and my ancestors," he said.

The 32-year-old was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $750.

... then EPA announce they will prosecute Forestry Corporation for illegal logging in Wild Cattle Creek:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/08/forestry-corporation-of-nsw-could-face-1m-in-fines-for-alleged-logging-in-koala-habitat

The Forestry Corporation of New South Wales could face more than $1m in fines for the alleged illegal logging of trees in protected areas, including koala habitat, in the state’s north.

It is facing two charges for logging zones considered “high use” habitat for koalas, with each offence carrying a maximum fine of $440,000.

The authority also alleges that the forestry agency logged protected rainforest and cleared trees inside an exclusion zone surrounding warm temperate rainforest.

The EPA’s acting chief executive, Jacqueleine Moore, said it was unacceptable to put vulnerable species, such as the koala, in danger by breaking the rules. “We have strict procedures in place to protect wildlife, and if they are disregarded it can put these animals under threat,” Moore said.

A spokeswoman for the Forestry Corporation said during the logging operations it had set aside 21 hectares of habitat “which was three times what was required under the ruleset, protecting an additional 6000 trees”. She said the EPA’s allegations related to nine trees.

https://www.miragenews.com/epa-prosecutes-forestry-corporation-for-alleged-breaches-in-koala-exclusion-zones/

The two offences relating to koala exclusion zones carry a maximum penalty of $440,000 each, while the other three offences carry a maximum penalty of $110,000 each.

The prosecutions are listed for mention before the Land and Environment Court on 16 October 2020.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/growing-a-backbone-nsw-epa-praised-for-prosecuting-forestry-corp-20201008-p563bh.html

North East Forest Alliance spokesman Dailan Pugh said the prosecutions and the stop-work order were the first such actions in northern NSW, and appear to signal a more aggressive stance by the watchdog.

"There's a new team in charge at the EPA and it seems they have finally got some backbone," Mr Pugh said, adding Forestry Corp doesn't pay attention to anything short of prosecutions.

"It's awe-inspiring to go into these forests. These are just magnificent trees," Mr Pugh said.

"The EPA needs to get this environmental operator [Forestry Corp] to act in accordance with the law," Ms Higginson said.

Ms Higginson, though, said the EPA's recent stop work order had come nine days after Forestry Corp contractors had been found to have allegedly illegally logged two giant trees on July 9.

The EPA waited"while the logging went on day after day", she said. "You don't need nine days to work that out."

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-09/nsw-environment-regulator-takes-forestry-to-court/12747132

Australian Koala Foundation chair Deborah Tabart said the regulator had taken serious action.

"[We're] absolutely delighted that the Forestry Corporation is being called to account by the EPA," Ms Tabart said.

"I've been in my job for 32 years and it's a very rare event, so I'll be very interested to see the outcomes."

NEFA spokesman Dailan Pugh said he hoped the action against Forestry operations at Wild Cattle Creek Forest would be a catalyst for change.

"[It's] a landmark moment," he said.

"Let's wait and see whether the prosecution is carried through to the end result and that there's a meaningful outcome."

Mr Pugh and other environmental groups, such as the Gumbaynggirr Conservation Group, want the forest to be preserved and eventually made part of a proposed Great Koala National Park on the Coffs Coast.

Berejiklian claims victory when gutting protection for Koalas on private lands:

https://www.goulburnpost.com.au/story/6961073/cranky-koala-goes-out-on-a-limb-for-species-protection/

Mark Selmes is much more at home in the quiet forest at Mount Rae near Taralga.

But on Tuesday he put on his cranky pants, donned his 'Cranky Koala' suit and went off to 'the big smoke.'

Heads turned as he boarded Sydney public transport, armed with his sign - 'Stop logging our home: Save our forests.' Working up a sweat, he marched up to Parliament House where the Libs and Nats were meeting over the controversial Koala State Environmental Planning Policy.

As a key stakeholder in the environment Cranky Koala wanted to be heard. After all, it was Australian Wildlife Week. Who better to represent their views?

Cranky Koala said he was concerned that the National Party seemed not to understand that to save koalas, people needed to save their homes and food - the trees.

Past laws had seemed to protect mining, logging, industrial scale agriculture and urban development - all at the expense of the koala, he told The Post.

https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/News/2020/NSW-Government-finalises-koala-SEPP

[Mr Stokes] “Last night’s resolution demonstrates that there are often important robust and passionate discussions as part of the decision-making process. The koala is an iconic Australian animal and saving it from extinction in the wild is the goal of this policy.”

The NSW Government has agreed the following in order to reverse the decline of the State’s koala population:

  • Retaining the 123 tree species that have been scientifically proven to be critical to koala survival, as habitat and feed source
  • Refining the definition of ‘core koala habitat’, meaning it must be either a highly suitable habitat and koalas are present, or highly suitable habitat and there is a verified record of koalas
  • Decoupling the Private Native Forestry and the Land Management Codes within the Local Land Services Act 2013 from the Koala SEPP on the basis robust protections already exist;
  • Strengthening landholder rights when a local council creates a Koala Plan of Management by extending minimum exhibition timeframes, introducing clear dispute pathways for landholders and ensuring they can access ecologists or use their own to appeal or object to what a council has put forward;
  • Removing the pink Development Application Map in favour of returning to an on-the-ground survey method; and,
  • Refining the blue Site Investigation Map and making it available to local councils.

https://www.miragenews.com/nsw-government-finalises-koala-sepp/

The final Koala SEPP will be taken to the Executive Council for approval by the Governor as soon as possible and Guidelines will be published on Friday, 16 October. The NSW Government will introduce amendments into the Parliament to the Local Land Services Act 2013 this year.

https://www.begadistrictnews.com.au/story/6957806/nsw-government-agrees-to-new-koala-policy/?cs=9676

Mr Barilaro argued the laws were a "nail in the coffin for farmers" and threatened to take his MPs to the cross bench, but backed down less than 24 hours later after an ultimatum from the premier.

Acting Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the agreement reached would free farmers from "green tape", by separating land management and private native forestry within the SEPP.

They were concerned the policy would limit land use on farms and the ability to rezone areas for development as more trees would be classed as koala habitat, which would restrict the clearing of land.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-07/nsw-government-agrees-on-koala-protection-policy/12738432

The new policy separates private forestry and land management into the Local Land Services Act and removes controversial habitat maps in favour of on-ground surveys.

It also re-defines the meaning of "core koala habitat" and enforces the protection of 123 target tree species that have been shown to be crucial sources of habitat and feed for koalas.

[Rob Stokes] "It is particularly aimed at urban expansion on the north coast of NSW or in areas around Sydney where there is significant land clearing of core koala habitat.

"Obviously that has to stop and that's what this policy achieves."

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the heated debate over the policy resulted in a better outcome for all.

Ms Berejiklian said she was confident the parties would reach a suitable agreement.

"I think it is a great balance; I am really, really happy with where it is has landed," she said.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/robust-negotiations-end-coalition-division-over-koala-policy-20201006-p562m2.html

The definition of "core koala habitat" has been refined to mean it must be highly suitable habitat with koalas present and with a confirmed record of koalas, or highly suitable with a record of koalas in the past 18 years.

Before the government announced an in-principle agreement over the SEPP last week, the Nationals leadership sought endorsement of the deal in an emergency party room meeting over Zoom.

Senior MPs say the resulting agreement shows the Coalition crisis should never have happened, with one Nationals MP saying the result was "more about the absence of Barilaro".

https://www.miragenews.com/koalas-can-t-cope-with-more-habitat-loss-inquiry-chair/

“Koalas have suffered so much, with at least one third of them killed in the bushfires,” said Ms Faehrmann

“They are now seeking refuge and safety in the pockets of bushland and forests which remain. Any further loss could be devastating for local populations which are the key to the species ongoing survival.

“The protection of habitat necessary to stop koalas becoming extinct must be decided by the science, not by the National Party. For the Liberals to back down on the definition of core koala habitat after years of extensive research and mapping by experts is hugely disappointing,” says Ms Faehrmann.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/10/koala-protections-stripped-away-by-berejiklian-government/

There was a moment of hope when environmentalists were praising the NSW Berejiklian government for standing up to the bullying tactics of their National Party colleagues over protecting koalas. But it didn’t last and the Liberal Party has again back-flipped, facilitating the koala’s path to extinction by 2050.

‘Koala populations had declined by 50 per cent over 20 years on the north coast before the fires, then they lost 30 per cent of their remaining populations in one fire season,’ said North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

‘The Liberals caved in to National Party bullying. Despite the warning of the bipartisan Koala Inquiry that koalas could become extinct by 2050. The Berejiklian government’s perverse response has been to dramatically weaken protection for koalas...

‘It was fear of Council’s now mapping core Koala habitat that upset the timber industry and land developers, and thereby precipitated the National Party’s dummy spit.

‘The outcome is that the mapping criteria are being tightened to limit the ability of Councils to map and identify core Koala habitat, and that when identified it will no longer be excluded from broadscale clearing and logging.

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/6961632/opinion-berejiklian-government-backflip-a-nail-in-the-coffin-of-koalas/

"The government's spin that their gutting of 25 years of Koala protection is somehow a good outcome for Koalas is utter nonsense", said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"With 61 per cent of Koala habitat on private land, making mapped core Koala habitat available for logging and allowing its broadscale clearing without approval, is a major loss of protection and will hasten the looming extinction of Koalas.

Allowable fenceline clearing increased from 6m to 25 m.

https://7news.com.au/politics/new-laws-to-clear-bushfire-hazards-in-nsw-c-1368995

The NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner will be given sweeping new powers to decide if vegetation should be cleared to protect lives or property at the risk from bushfires.

Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott also announced simplified rules for landowners, allowing them to clear up to 25 metres on their property from the boundary without seeking approvals.

"If public authorities fail to clear lands, the NSW RFS will step in."

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/07/nsw-will-allow-land-to-be-cleared-up-to-25m-from-property-boundary-citing-bushfire-concerns

The New South Wales government will allow rural landholders to clear up to 25m of land from their property’s fence line without an environmental approval, a move it says will “empower” property owners to reduce bushfire risk.

But the proposal, which was not one of the 76 recommendations from the NSW bushfire inquiry, has been labelled “anti-science” and prompted alarm it will lead to broad-scale clearing of endangered forest and habitat for grazing and other purposes unrelated to hazard reduction.

But there are concerns the plan could allow for unregulated clearing of vulnerable ecosystems including rainforest, koala habitat, old-growth trees and critically endangered ecological communities. NSW has already recorded huge increases in land-clearing rates as a result of changes to native vegetation laws in 2017.

... as if we need more clearing:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-10-08/deforestation-land-clearing-australia-state-by-state/12535438

Australia is a world leader in chopping down trees and wiping out animals: two questionable accomplishments that are tightly connected.

Land clearing and habitat loss are the biggest drivers of animal extinction and in recent years, Australia's aggressive rate of land clearing has ranked among the developed world's fastest.

So despite our reputation for untamed wilderness and charismatic wildlife, it's perhaps no surprise that Australia has one of the highest rates of animal extinction in the world.

[2010-18] More than 88,000 hectares of primary forest was cleared in New South Wales.

Reclearing takes the state's entire land clearing tally to 663,000 hectares.

In 2017, New South Wales relaxed its native vegetation clearing laws, however the impact that has had on land clearing is expected to show up in the reporting periods for 2019 and 2020.

A leaked report from the Natural Resources Commission last year suggested that land clearing may have surged by as much as 13 times.

Despite the clearing of more than 3.5 million hectares nationally during the 2010-2018 period, according to the National Greenhouse Accounts(NGA) data there has been a net increase in tree cover in Australia during that time.

To get to that conclusion, they have compared the amount of cleared land (3.78 million hectares) with the amount of land allowed to regrow (4.19 million hectares), to come up with a "net forest clearing" figure of negative-401,000 hectares.

But critics say this does not represent what is happening in our forests from a wildlife conservation or carbon storage perspective.

The issue is that a mature forest can be cleared in one place, and an equivalent area of three-foot-high saplings may have regrown in another.

In that case the data would show no net loss in forest cover, despite a significant deficit of carbon storage and habitat occurring.

For instance, using the SLATs method the Queensland state government reported 356,000 and 392,000 hectares were cleared in Queensland in the periods 2016-17 (winter-to-winter) and 2017-18 respectively.

But the National Greenhouse Accounts (NGA) figures for Queensland show only 304,000 and 254,400 hectares were cleared for the 2017 and 2018 periods — almost 190,000 hectares less.

Lyrebirds great at controlling fires,

https://clarencevalleynews.com.au/lyrical-lyrebird-recognised-as-hard-working-engineer/

Researchers from La Trobe University have discovered the superb lyrebird – famous for its extraordinary vocal range and ability to mimic almost any sound – can move more soil than any other land animal globally.

Lead researcher and PhD candidate Alex Maisey found wild superb lyrebirds displace on average 155 tonnes of soil and leaf litter per hectare in a single year while foraging for food, making an important contribution to forest ecology.

“In just one year, we calculated that each lyrebird in Sherbrooke Forest moved a load equivalent to that carried by 11 standard dump trucks,” Mr Maisey said.

The scientists discovered that by moving large amounts of material, lyrebirds change litter decomposition and the structure of soil on the forest floor, creating opportunities for other species, with important implications for groundcover plants, fire behaviour and post-fire ecosystem recovery.

https://www.audubon.org/news/another-reason-lyrebirds-they-move-tons-dirt-keeping-forests-healthy

Without the Superb Lyrebird, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places. As they forage, the birds inadvertently play a large role in maintaining a healthy habitat that benefits organisms such as plants, fungi, and insects. Their digging aerates the soil and buries leaf litter, hastening its natural decomposition. This creates microhabitats for small invertebrates, and helps seeds germinate on the forest floor.

All that raking also prevents the accumulation of dry leaf litter on the surface, which reduces the risk, extent, and intensity of wildfires. “If there's lots of fuel sitting on the ground available to a fire, then the fire will burn hotter and quicker," Maisey says. "But when lyrebirds are actively burying fuel, it becomes unavailable to fires."

At the end of their two-year study, Maisey and his team found that patches of forest where the birds were experimentally excluded had three times more dry leaf litter than areas where they were allowed to forage freely.

“They definitely play a significant role in fire reduction,” says Todd Elliot, a biologist with the University of New England (Australia), who was not involved with the study.

... cutting down trees not good at controlling fire:

https://phys.org/news/2020-10-thinning-forests-defence.html
Having logging machines "thin" forest for fire reduction is largely ineffective, a new peer-reviewed, scientific study has found.

The study, led by researchers at The Australian National University and published in the journal Conservation Letters, compared fire severity in unthinned versus thinned forest burned in the 2009 wildfires.

The scientific evidence showed that across almost every forest age and type, thinning made little difference. It actually increased the likelihood of a crown burn in older, mixed species forests, and slightly reduced the chance of crown burn in younger aged, mixed species forest.

The study also found 20- to 40- year old forest was more likely to suffer crown burn than 70-year-old forest. It also suggested more study could still be done on the topic.

"A previous report found thinning of forests increased fire risk," Dr. Taylor said. "And multiple previous studies have also found fire severity is lower in older, undisturbed and unlogged forests."

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/08/thinning-forests-doesnt-reduce-bushfire-risk-and-could-make-some-blazes-worse-study-finds

Taylor told Guardian Australia that thinning tended to leave fuel on the forest floor and the machinery used could also crush vegetation.

“What you have left is an abundance of fuel that dries out and becomes a fire risk,” he said.

The study also says thinning can make a forest drier as well as increase air flow “potentially facilitating the spread of fire through the forest”.

Its co-author, Prof David Lindenmayer, said the study “basically says that the solution that the industry is suggesting to help solve the problem is not going to help”.

“The only place where thinning has had a positive effect [on fire severity] is in models,” he said.

In submissions to the royal commission earlier this year, at least three forest industry groups advocated for widespread thinning to cut the risk of bushfires.

Victoria continues transition to plantations:

https://www.miragenews.com/innovation-key-to-future-of-our-timber-industry/

Timber businesses with innovative ideas about using plantation timber and transforming operations away from native timber will be supported with grants from the Victorian Government.

Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaclyn Symes today visited Wodonga manufacturing business XLam to launch the Timber Innovation Grants, which will offer up to $100,000 to help timber mills and harvest and haulage businesses explore shifting to plantation fibre or other timber manufacturing opportunities.

It is a key part of the Government’s $120 million Victorian Forestry Plan to transition from harvesting native forests to a plantation-based sector.

As Queensland ALP recommit to belatedly protecting State Forests in south-east Queensland

https://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/6957797/alp-plan-to-set-aside-17pc-of-state-for-nature-is-revived/

A strategy that continues to support an aspirational target of setting aside 17 per cent of Queensland's land mass for national parks, nature refuges and wildlife reserves has been unveiled by the Palaszczuk government.

Queensland's Protected Area Strategy 2020-2030 is a ten-year plan that Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said would play a vital role in supporting the state's economic recovery by protecting and revitalising park areas and promoting a tourism-led recovery.

Queensland's protected area network currently covers more than 14.2 million hectares or 8.26pc of Queensland ...
In 2019 the government announced that it would transfer up to 20,000 hectares of state forest in south east Queensland, where logging will cease, to protected area by 2024, and the first 6000 hectares of this transfer would occur in the current financial year, as part of the strategy.

Our rulers continue transition to armageddon as they wage war on 'god's' creation:

https://www.nationaltribune.com.au/budget-2020-21-a-win-for-big-polluters-a-loss-for-climate-action/

The gas industry, mining companies and big polluters are the clear winners from this year’s federal budget, while climate action is the clear loser, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

“We know the best way to cut the pollution driving global warming is to move away from burning coal and gas, yet this budget provides funding that locks in new fossil fuel projects,” said ACF’s Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy.

“The gas industry is the big winner with $52.8 million allocated to accelerating gas projects, continuing gas research and re-establishing the east coast gas market.”

“The fuel tax credit subsidy, which allows multinational mining companies like Rio Tinto, BHP and Glencore to pay zero tax on their off-road diesel use, will cost Australians $33 billion across the forward estimates.

“Coal mining companies alone will receive more than $1.2 billion a year in diesel fuel subsidies over the forward estimates.

“The budget puts $50 million over three years to further experiments with speculative carbon capture and storage, even though CCS has already received $1.3 billion in taxpayer support with virtually no commercial success

https://theconversation.com/backwards-federal-budget-morrison-government-never-fails-to-disappoint-on-climate-action-147659?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%208%202020%20-%201752416972&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%208%202020%20-%201752416972+CID_685341bd6a90f291a5b0e948020e8c0e&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Backwards%20federal%20budget%20Morrison%20government%20never%20fails%20to%20disappoint%20on%20climate%20action

The budget was a chance to reset Australia’s failed climate policy – an opportunity enhanced by the stimulus spending brought on by COVID-19.

Instead, we got a string of backward-looking gestures including subsidies for coal, another go at the failed technology of carbon capture storage and a continued push for gas.

Sooner or later, Australia will have to join the rest of the world in ending our reliance on carbon-based energy. The catastrophic bushfires of last summer proved this. And if we refuse to move, the rest of the world will force our hand.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/budget-2020-18bn-boost-for-national-parks-oceans-recycling/news-story/f83db4c5dee143a9aef2b5088978584a?btr=7bb42d797802911c5d944cb305878fa0

Funding for environmental protection has been bolstered by $1.8bn, with money for national parks, oceans and recycling.

Josh Frydenberg used his budget speech to highlight the government’s responsibility to “protect our environment and this magnificent continent”.

Mr Frydenberg hailed the “biggest single investments in Australia’s commonwealth national parks”, with a $233m upgrade of facilities in Uluru, Kakadu, Christmas Island and the Booderee ­National Park.

An extra $255m over four years will also be spent to “ensure the ­financial sustainability of the ­Bureau of Meteorology”.

Other spending includes $203m for bushfire wildlife and habitat recovery, $149m on a 10-year threatened species strategy and $37m to “maintain the timeliness of environmental assessments” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

There will also be $41m provided to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to “allow for the renewal and repair of heritage-listed infrastructure, public safety improvements and master planning for Cockatoo Island and North Head Sanctuary”.

Mr Frydenberg hailed a $250m reform of the waste and recycling industries, including through the ban of waste exports.

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/disappointing-environment-budget-lacks-new-funding-for-australian-renewables/ar-BB19KCO1

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, said the government would spend $67.4m on oceans and marine ecosystems, including $14.8 million to tackle the marine impacts of ghost nets and plastic litter and $28.3 million for compliance, enforcement and monitoring activities across Australia’s marine parks.

A further $20m in already announced funding will go towards reestablishing native oyster reefs at eleven sites around the country.

It contains some measures in response to the interim report of the review of Australia’s environment laws ... The money budgeted in response to the report is largely focused on the Morrison government’s deregulation agenda. There is $10.6m over two years for negotiations with the state and territories to move to a “single touch” system for environmental approvals. Legislation that will clear the way for bilateral approval agreements is currently before the parliament.

Greenpeace Australia’s Pacific program director, Kate Smolski, said: “Reading this budget, you would never know that Australia very recently suffered the worst bushfires in its history that killed more than 30 people, billions of animals and burned more than 17 million hectares of land including homes and businesses.”

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/federal-budget-condemns-our-wildlife-to-extinction,14386

This Budget paper should fill every concerned Australian with alarm. Not only is the overview paper an exercise in spin, as evidenced in the list of outcomes, but funding for urgent environmental priorities is ignored.

Without doubt, the plight of koalas is a major concern for the public. Given the millions of dollars donated by Australians and overseas celebs, organisations and concerned citizens, the Budget fails to recognise the koalas’ plight.

Instead of 210,000 human lives lost, the Australian leader is condemning our wildlife to extinction. The Budget is a national disgrace.

As Commonwealth throw millions after billions on sham carbon capture and storage schemes, nature wants to do it for free:

https://www.spatialsource.com.au/uncategorized/study-maps-global-regrowth-carbon-capture-potential

CSIRO scientists have joined researchers across the globe to produce a 1km resolution map of carbon accumulation potential from forest regrowth.

Published in Nature, the study is the first of its kind, producing a ‘wall to wall’ global map that highlights forested areas with greatest carbon returns if allowed to regrow naturally.

Our goal with this study was to show where forests can capture carbon fastest on their own,a mitigation strategy that complements keeping forests standing,” said co-author Dr. Nancy Harris from World Resources Institute.

“If we let them, forests can do some of our climate mitigation work for us.”

The full report is available from Nature, with an overview of the data published on the Natural Climate Solutions World Atlas, a project by Nature4Climate (N4C) –a coalition established by The Nature Conservancy with Conservation International, World Resources Institute and other partners to increase global investment and action on nature-based solutions.

https://www.miragenews.com/fao-director-general-calls-for-transformational-change-in-way-we-manage-our-forests-and-food-systems-that-depend/

5 October 2020, Rome – Transformational change is needed in the way we manage our forests and their biodiversity, produce and consume our foods and interact with nature, if we want to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This was the key message of a speech delivered today by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at the 25th session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO).

“Halting deforestation and scaling up reforestation, must be a central building block to the sustainable transformation of food systems”, the FAO chief stressed.

“COVID-19 has taught us that we need to reinforce for urgent action,” Inger Andersen said, noting that a green recovery from the pandemic must promote healthy and restored forests following the transitions laid out in the Convention for Biological Diversity with conserving intact ecosystems, restoring ecosystems and reversing degradation being the priorities . “But to make these transitions happen we need to transform our food systems, which is the largest deforestation cause and which is the largest biodiversity loss cause,” she added.

Nitrous oxide is no laughing matter:

https://theconversation.com/new-research-nitrous-oxide-emissions-300-times-more-powerful-than-co-are-jeopardising-earths-future-147208?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%208%202020%20-%201752416972&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%208%202020%20-%201752416972+CID_685341bd6a90f291a5b0e948020e8c0e&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=New%20research%20nitrous%20oxide%20emissions%20300%20times%20more%20powerful%20than%20CO%20are%20jeopardising%20Earths%20future

Nitrous oxide from agriculture and other sources is accumulating in the atmosphere so quickly it puts Earth on track for a dangerous 3℃ warming this century, our new research has found.

Each year, more than 100 million tonnes of nitrogen are spread on crops in the form of synthetic fertiliser. The same amount again is put onto pastures and crops in manure from livestock.

As a greenhouse gas, N₂O has 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO₂) and stays in the atmosphere for an average 116 years. It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.

The current concentrations are in line with a global average temperature increase of well above 3℃ this century.

We found that global human-caused N₂O emissions have grown by 30% over the past three decades.

 

2 October 2020


The Nationals demand logging of unburnt forests:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/barilaro-ignored-pleas-to-protect-koalas-after-bushfires-insisted-logging-continue-20200925-p55zdi.html

Deputy Premier John Barilaro ignored pleas from the environmental watchdog to curb logging in a core koala habitat hit hard by last season's fires, instead demanding the state firm meet its contracts.

Documents reveal the Environment Protection Authority sought a voluntary halt to logging in the Lower Bucca and other state forests from March onwards. After initially supporting such a move, Forestry Corp rejected the request after intervention by Mr Barilaro, the papers show.

Lower Bucca, near Coffs Harbour, "has a high proportion of high-value koala habitat; it contains a koala hub, and is an important koala refugium in bushfire recovery", EPA document written as advice to Environment Minister Matt Kean in early April shows.

"The Coastal IFOA does not contemplate the degree of impacts on the environment caused by the fires," the document labelled "sensitive" said.

"Amending the Coastal IFOA to provide the EPA power to stop logging unburnt forests would require a 28-day public consultation period and concurrence with the Deputy Premier," it added.

Forestry Corp initially agreed to a plan to avoid logging unburnt state forests and to replan logging in burnt ones.

However, the loss-making firm later changed tack, saying "the unburnt forests are needed to deliver on their wood supply agreements (to access blackbutt timber for [construction company] Boral)", the advice said. Forestry Corp also rejected a plea for extra "site-specific conditions" to protect koalas.

The EPA report stated Forestry Corp logging continued "because their Minister [John Barilaro] asked them to deliver on contractual obligations".

Brandy Hill Koalas gaining momentum:

https://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/6947280/leys-decision-looms-as-battle-to-save-koala-habitat-heats-up/

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has visited the controversial Brandy Hill quarry site as the battle to save 52 hectares of core koala habitat intensifies with celebrities, politicians and community groups lending their support to the ever growing 'Save Port Stephens Koalas' campaign.

With less than two weeks to go before Ms Ley is expected to hand down her decision on the proposed expansion of the Brandy Hill rock quarry by Hanson, opponents to the quarry have rolled out the big guns. Public support has come from the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Magda Szubanski, Jimmy Barnes, The Greens and the Nature Conservation Council - and the list is growing by the day.

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6948752/sussan-ley-visits-brandy-hill-koala-battleground/?cs=7573

No piddly quarries for Queensland:

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/qld-approves-mine-that-will-create-1000-jobs-but-destroy-koala-habitat-20200929-p5606f.html

Construction on a billion-dollar coal mine in central Queensland is set to begin after mining leases were handed over by the Palaszczuk government on Tuesday.

The Olive Downs project has been given approval by state and federal governments to clear 5500 hectares of koala and glider habitat.

The federal government signed off on the mine in May, on the condition the mining company contributed $1 million "to improving long-term conservation of koalas and greater gliders in the Bowen Basin".

Other environmental conditions placed on the mine included a 34,000-hectare offset property to relocate wildlife and "a comprehensive monitoring and management program" to ensure the project did not affect groundwater-dependent ecosystems.

https://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/story/6947261/qld-govt-approves-1b-coking-coalmine/?cs=9676

What is the Koala SEPP all about:

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/koala-controversy-what-does-the-new-28397/

It’s not every day that SEPPs make headline news, let alone threaten the stability of the NSW Government. So it was with interest that we followed the political controversy that unfolded this month surrounding the recent State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 (the Koala SEPP).

Absent in the media was any real discussion of how the Koala SEPP actually operates. We thought it timely to provide this little explainer.

https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/business-law/koalafications-what-new-environmental-laws-mean-survival-species

Like the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 44, the new SEPP doesn’t prevent the clearing of any koala habitat, says Associate Professor Amelia Thorpe in Law at UNSW Sydney.

“It just requires approval, and even then, there are lots of exceptions,” she says.

With the new SEPP, approval is required for developments determined by councils, but approval is not required for major projects (state significant development and state significant infrastructure), activities assessed under Part 5 of the EPA Act (activities by public authorities) and land clearing requiring approvals under other legislation. 

“It also excludes development on land less than one hectare,” says A/Prof. Thorpe.

Koala Plans of Management are still voluntary and since the old SEPP commenced in 1995 only five have been made by councils.

In its media statement, the National Party says: “We must protect property rights, traditional farming practices, private native forestry and the ability for landholders to conduct minor developmental changes without being mired in layers of green tape.”

A/Prof. Thorpe says this is based on an understanding of property rights that has never been correct.

“Property rights have always been constrained by the rights of other property owners – no-one ever has absolute control over their land because what we do affects the land around us,” she says.

... and while they have gutted the SEPP to the National's satisfaction we don't yet know the details (sounds like landclearing and forestry will be exempt):

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/02/peace-deal-brokered-after-koala-planning-laws-threatened-to-fracture-nsw-coalition

The New South Wales premier says the Liberal and National parties have reached a peace deal over planning laws to protect koala habitat after the issue almost split the Coalition government a month ago.

On Friday, the Liberal premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the parties had reached an agreement over the policy ahead of a cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

The full details of the new policy won’t be released until after next week’s cabinet meeting ...

Toole on Friday spruiked changes to the policy that would mean core farmland would be exempt from the new policy.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/nsw-liberals-reach-agreement-with-nationals-over-koala-policy-saga

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said it was a "huge win" for agriculture, farms and the environment.

He said the deal will ensure agriculture and farming will continue to be regulated by existing land management codes and private native forestry will still be regulated under the existing code arrangements.

Scotty from marketing knows what's best:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8792555/Scott-Morrison-reveals-favourite-Australian-animal-weird-reason-finds-funny.html

The prime minister has revealed his favourite animal, and the curious reason behind it.

'I am a big fan of koalas, I've got to say, I love koalas,' he told Adelaide radio 5AA on Thursday.

'And I like it when they get the 'irrits' a bit, too. I find that quite funny.'

First round to Bob Brown in renewed RFA legal battle:

https://www.tenterfieldstar.com.au/story/6952889/tas-loggers-agree-to-delay-for-parrots/?cs=9676

Critically endangered Tasmanian parrots will be able to breed in peace over the coming months after loggers agreed to postpone activities in native habitat.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown had flagged plans for an urgent injunction on logging activities in old growth forests to protect the swift parrot.

State-owned logging group Sustainable Timber Tasmania was due to undertake logging activities in parrot habitat, but Mr Brown's lawyer Ron Merkel QC told the Federal Court that it could disrupt the bird's breeding season from September to January.

STT has agreed to hold off on logging until the case can be heard by the full court, which is not expected to meet again until February.

An STT spokesperson said the decision to postpone logging in 19 coupes was made solely to avoid costly and time-consuming injunction arguments.

The foundation is arguing Tasmania's regional forest agreement is invalid because it doesn't include a legally enforceable requirement for the state to protect threatened species.

https://www.miragenews.com/commitment-to-tasmania-s-sustainable-forestry-industry/

Guy Barnett, Minister for Resources

The Tasmanian Government has full confidence in our comprehensive Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) and is fully prepared to fight its legality in court in order to protect Tasmanian businesses, jobs and communities.

I am advised that Sustainable Timber Tasmania are taking the proactive step, following consultation with industry, to suspend operations in a limited number of coupes.

This will allow the case against the legality of the RFA by the Bob Brown Foundation to be brought forward and resolved sooner, to provide certainty for Tasmanian workers.

Western Australian nannas aggravate loggers:

https://thewest.com.au/news/augusta-margaret-river-times/grannies-protest-shameful-ng-b881680713z
Forest industry workers have panned Tuesday’s mass protest by anti-logging grandmother activists as an illegal publicity stunt.After seven elderly Margaret River women staged a similar protest at McCorkhill Forest last month, a group of about 40 self-described “grannies” blocked roads and Forest Products Association operations at Helms Forest this week.Ms Haslam said family-owned logging contractors were forced to stop for three hours because of illegal road closures for the sake of “a shameful publicity stunt”.
The women set up a small camp site, knitting, reading, sketching, making tea, and writing letters to Premier Mark McGowan. They also demanded an in-person meeting with Forestry Minister Dave Kelly and Environment Minister Stephen Dawson.

Meanwhile Victoria is transitioning to plantations:

https://www.miragenews.com/new-nursery-to-grow-more-timber-and-gippsland-jobs/

Victoria’s forestry transition will be supported with the creation of a new state-owned nursery in East Gippsland, which will also help local forests and economies recover from the devastating 2019-20 Victorian bushfires.

Establishment of the $10 million Victorian Forest Nursery will increase the eucalypt seedling supply chain and create up to 30 new jobs, most of which will be ongoing.

The Program is part of the Government’s $110 million investment in plantation timber. It supports the Victorian Forestry Plan and the timeline it sets to transition from harvesting native forests to a plantation-based sector.

Currently five-out-of-six trees harvested in Victoria are from plantations and the state has the largest area dedicated to timber plantations in Australia.

... and replanting disappearing alpine forests:

The Victorian Government is undertaking the largest forest restoration effort in the state’s history with a $7.7 million operation that airlifted tonnes of eucalypt seeds into areas of forest devastated by last summer’s fires.

Funding from Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s $110 million State Recovery Plan is helping recover thousands of hectares of burnt Mountain and Alpine Ash forest and enabling seed to be collected from healthy bushland to ensure the re-seeding work can be ongoing.

Between May and July more than 4.5 tonnes of eucalypt seed, 3 tonnes of which came from VicForests’ contingency reserves, was spread by helicopter across nearly 11,500 hectares of fire ravaged country, an area the equivalent of about 5,650 MCGs.

We each get 8 more trees a year:

https://theconversation.com/every-year-in-australia-nature-grows-8-new-trees-for-you-but-that-alone-wont-fix-climate-change-146922?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%202%202020%20-%201747316920&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%202%202020%20-%201747316920+CID_404101341324bbc27510bc5d0a61b7a1&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Every%20year%20in%20Australia%20nature%20grows%208%20new%20trees%20for%20you%20%20but%20that%20alone%20wont%20fix%20climate%20change

we mapped changes in Australia’s tree cover in detail, using 30 years of satellite images. We published the results in a recent paper and made the data available for everyone in our new TreeChange web interactive.

On average, we’ve been gaining eight “standard trees” per year for every Australian.

In total, we found there is currently the equivalent of 1,000 standard trees for every Australian. But this doesn’t mean all our forests are doing well.

So we defined a “standard”: imagine a gum tree with a trunk 30 centimetres in diameter, standing about 15 metres tall.... Cut it down and let it dry out, and it will weigh about half a ton.

We found the total forest biomass across Australia holds the equivalent of about 24 billion standard trees.

By this definition, we gained a staggering 28 million hectares of forest over the last 30 years, plus another 24 million hectares of woodland.

... most of the trees were already there. They just grew larger and denser, and crossed the threshold of our definition of a forest, so were counted in.

By international standards our emissions are massive, equivalent to the carbon stored in 24 standard trees per person per year.

And additional carbon is stored on the forest floor in, for example, logs and branches, as well as under the surface as organic matter. This is worth, perhaps, several more trees of carbon. But it is not clear how safe those carbon deposits are from fire and drought.

While we found the total area and biomass of forests and woodlands has been rising, quality can be more important than quantity when it comes to our ecosystems.

Though its not all good:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/09/study-finds-a-mexico-sized-swath-of-intact-land-lost-to-human-pressure/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=f7ea6ce42a-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-f7ea6ce42a-77229786&mc_cid=f7ea6ce42a&mc_eid=c0875d445f

A new study published in One Earth found that more than half of the world is under moderate or intense pressure due to humanity, and that between 2000 and 2013, about 1.9 million square kilometers (734,000 square miles) of intact land — about the size of Mexico — has been modified to the point of devastation.

Williams told Mongabay in an email. “A lot of biodiversity requires intact land for survival, and people rely on the services that intact ecosystems provide. Climate change mitigation efforts are also undermined by these losses because intact lands make crucial contributions to the terrestrial carbon sink, so it really is cause for concern.”

“Once those intact places have been degraded by human industry, they can never be returned, and that has huge consequences for biodiversity and climate agendas as well as the sustainable development goals.” On the other hand, the study showed that 42% of the terrestrial Earth was relatively “free of direct anthropogenic disturbance,” and that 25% of land could still be considered “wilderness” with very little human disturbance. The most intact biomes included tundras, boreal and taiga forests, deserts and xeric shrublands ...

Is a fairer and greener Australia possible:

https://theconversation.com/friday-essay-its-possible-how-we-can-create-a-fairer-greener-australia-beyond-covid-145698?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%202%202020%20-%201747316920&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%202%202020%20-%201747316920+CID_404101341324bbc27510bc5d0a61b7a1&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Friday%20essay%20its%20possible%20%20how%20we%20can%20create%20a%20fairer%20greener%20Australia%20beyond%20COVID

It’s only months since we were overwhelmed with the bushfire disaster. ...The koalas screaming in agony were heard around the world. This was our global future burning before our eyes.

... But we should understand the virus as an ecological disaster, just like the climate emergency. They are not causally related. Rather, they are expressions of the same profound overburdening of the planet by anthropogenic excess.

The climate emergency has not abated with the pandemic. Extreme weather is everywhere on the planet. Syria is gripped by its worst drought in 900 years. Locusts are swarming over East Africa. We are warned the climatic sweet spot of the Holocene that has made complex societies possible for the last 6,000 years is coming to an end, to be replaced by unbearable heat in some of the world’s most populous places.

Not only the year of COVID, 2020 will be the year, according to the World Food Programme, of the greatest food shortages since 1945. And the global economic collapse, if we are not both brave and careful, will morph into a depression longer and deeper than that of the 1930s.

We need national reconstruction again: to transition to renewable energy, to restore fairness and security to our economy, to rebuild our rural and regional sectors that are beset by poverty, environmental stress and long-time marginalisation.

Climate change imperils our food security as it does our natural environment and wildlife. If we are to reconstruct Australia as a sustainable economy and society, then perhaps 60% of that effort needs to be in the bush.

We need to imagine the future we want:

https://theconversation.com/you-wake-up-with-lab-engineered-coffee-how-our-imaginations-can-help-decide-earths-future-145167?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%202%202020%20-%201747316920&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%202%202020%20-%201747316920+CID_404101341324bbc27510bc5d0a61b7a1&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=You%20wake%20up%20with%20lab-engineered%20coffee%20how%20our%20imaginations%20can%20help%20decide%20Earths%20future

As we argue in our recent paper, our imaginations allow us to engage with emotions that motivate action, such as hope, fear and grief. Can we imagine a future with no koalas or orange-bellied parrots or wollemi pines? Or of bushfires that destroy the natural wonders of our childhoods?

Storytelling can help in this task. In the following vignettes, we’ve imagined three possible futures for Australia.

Though reality is becoming a nightmare, in America jumping worms are destroying forests:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/invasive-jumping-worms-damage-soil-threaten-forests

What could be more 2020 than an ongoing invasion of jumping worms?

These earthworms are wriggling their way across the United States, voraciously devouring protective forest leaf litter and leaving behind bare, denuded soil. They displace other earthworms, centipedes, salamanders and ground-nesting birds, and disrupt forest food chains. They can invade more than five hectares in a single year, changing soil chemistry and microbial communities as they go, new research shows. And they don’t even need mates to reproduce.

Jumping worms are often sold as compost worms or fishing bait. And that, says soil ecologist Nick Henshue of the University at Buffalo in New York, is partially how they’re spreading

... while ghost forests are spreading:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200928125113.htm

A new study found the spread of ghost forests across a coastal region of North Carolina may have implications for global warming. Ghost forests are areas where rising seas have killed off freshwater-dependent trees, leaving dead or dying white snags standing in marsh.

They found that on unmanaged, or natural, land such as publicly owned wildlife areas, ghost forests spread across 15 percent of the area between 2001 and 2014.

"Two severe droughts within the study period produced larger-than-typical wildfires and facilitated salinization of normally freshwater ecosystems," said study co-author Paul Taillie, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida and former graduate student at N.C. State. "Thus the combination of rising sea level and future drought would be expected to cause a large net loss in biomass."

... and zombie fires refuse to die:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/siberia-forests-climate-change-stokes-040818404.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS91cmw_c2E9dCZyY3Q9aiZxPSZlc3JjPXMmc291cmNlPW5ld3NzZWFyY2gmY2Q9JnZlZD0wYWhVS0V3aThrLURwcjVQc0FoWGd6VGdHSFhjM0RDMDRVQkRGOUFFSUx6QUEmdXJsPWh0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGYXUubmV3cy55YWhvby5jb20lMkZzaWJlcmlhLWZvcmVzdHMtY2xpbWF0ZS1jaGFuZ2Utc3Rva2VzLTA0MDgxODQwNC5odG1sJnVzZz1BT3ZWYXczUzZRNEluMldsbHZfV3VhMzgyemtf&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAD0P1IHr7HmoIrF5sksoD-fKCOrPpbCTJ8ArPEnmlPwO4_fckxu4tWTkQLzngNc2kAJ-O2cihyfoUCV3ihIbuccoqSk10UvE2uHh4z37547vzrBoS42eesMhtqTRP4Je_9tnwAHNjXUtKtwp0ri7rv8h5SNdUwC9t8LeYcMiBlR5

"These are underground fires -- zombie fires," said Kuksin, the 40-year-old head of Greenpeace's wildfire unit in Russia.

Lying dormant one metre (three feet) beneath the earth's surface, the fire has survived biting Siberian winters because of low groundwater levels -- a result of regular droughts

After winter -- when summer temperatures soar -- the fires can return from the dead, igniting dry grass on the surface and spreading over large areas. 

He said it was a vicious circle where fires made worse by climate change release gases that in turn exacerbate climate change.

"We are fighting both against the result of climate change and the very thing that causes it," he said. 

The Nature website has recently reported an alarming increase in the frequency of peatland fires in the Arctic zones, both in North America and Russia.

While I may outlive the Great Barrier Reef, the good news is that the Amazon may outlive me, but not by much:

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fire-and-drought-could-trigger-amazon-collapse/

LONDON, 30 September, 2020 – Within one human lifetime, Amazon collapse could have turned the rainforest into open savannah.

The combined devastation of human-induced global warming, rapidly increasing degradation or destruction of the forest, natural climate cycles and catastrophic wildfires could be enough to bring the world’s biggest, richest and most vital forest to a tipping point: towards a new kind of habitat.

“The risk that our generation will preside over the irreversible collapse of Amazonian and Andean biodiversity is huge, literally existential,” warns Mark Bush of the Florida Institute of Technology, in the latest Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

His warning may sound apocalyptic. In fact, he is only saying out loud what has been implicit in research and reporting from the region for years.

Drought and fire present a kind of double jeopardy to any forest. Drought and fire could, researchers have repeatedly warned, turn the Amazon from an absorber of carbon to a source of greenhouse gases, to make global heating even worse.

“The immense biodiversity of the rainforest is at risk from fire,” said Professor Bush. “Warming alone could induce the tipping point by mid-century, but if the present policies that turn a blind eye to forest destruction aren’t stopped, we could reach the tipping point much sooner.”

He warned: “Beyond the loss of wildlife, the cascading effects of losing Amazonian rainforest would alter rainfall across the hemisphere. This is not a remote problem, but one of global importance and critical significance to food security that should concern us all.” – Climate News Network

https://theconversation.com/historic-amazon-rainforest-fires-threaten-climate-and-raise-risk-of-new-diseases-146720

The fires in the Amazon region in 2019 were unprecedented in their destruction. Thousands of fires had burned more than 7,600 square kilometres by October that year. In 2020, things are no better and, in all likelihood, may be worse.

According to the Global Fire Emissions Database project run by NASA, fires in the Amazon in 2020 surpassed those of 2019. In fact, 2020’s fires have been the worst since at least 2012, when the satellite was first operated. The number of fires burning the Brazilian Amazon increased 28 per cent in July 2020 over the previous year, and the fires in the first week of September are double those in 2019, according to INPE, Brazil’s national research space agency.

As the rainforest bleeds biomass through deforestation, it loses its ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere and releases carbon through combustion. If the annual fires burning the Amazon are not curtailed, one of the world’s largest carbon sinks will progressively devolve into a carbon faucet, releasing more carbon dioxide than it sequesters.

Many researchers predict that deforestation is propelling the Amazon towards a tipping point, beyond which it will gradually transform into a semi-arid savanna. If the deforestation of the rainforest continues past a threshold of 20-25 per cent total deforestation, multiple positive feedback loops will spark the desertification of the Amazon Basin.

The present pandemic may well have had an environmental genesis. Maintaining the Amazon’s current high level of biodiversity is vital, both for the health of the global ecosystem and because, otherwise, the Amazon could become a future hotspot of emerging diseases. When we protect the global ecosystem, we also protect ourselves from emerging zoonotic diseases.

... the edge effect makes it worse:

https://www.inverse.com/science/deforestation-side-effect

Forests thick with trees stash away CO2, lightening the load of the greenhouse gas. But the effect is dramatically reduced at the edges of the rainforest. There, clear-cutting projects of industries like lumber and palm oil weaken the forest's integrity.

From 2001 to 2015, the Amazon forest lost 947 million tons of carbon storage along its edges, a new study finds. That's one-third the quantity of carbon lost due to all deforestation in the same time period.

"Forest fragmentation, a resulting feature of the deforestation process, promotes indirect carbon losses induced by edge effect."

... One study, conducted in Malaysian Borneo, found that reduced carbon storage at the edge of the forest extends more than 300 feet into the forest.

There is still hope:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/world-economic-forum-innovations-conserve-preserve-trillion-trees/

  • At Davos 2020, the World Economic Forum launched 1t.org, the platform to serve a global movement to conserve, restore and grow 1 trillion trees by 2030.
  • In July 2020, 1t.org's Trillion Trees Challenge went live on UpLink, and led to the selection of the first cohort of Trillion Trees champions and innovators.
  • Innovations from 5 continents tackle a range of roadblocks, including mass mobilisation, reaching scale, greening cities, building a forest economy, and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies for trees.

Forests are critical to the health of the planet. Conserving existing forests, restoring forest ecosystems and reforesting suitable lands is essential if we are to transition to a sustainable pathway for our economies and societies at the required speed and scale.

World leaders step up, but Australia is missing in action:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/09/world-leaders-pledge-to-protect-30-of-the-planet-by-2030/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=f7ea6ce42a-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-f7ea6ce42a-77229786&mc_cid=f7ea6ce42a&mc_eid=c0875d445f

In the midst of a planetary biodiversity crisis, 71 world leaders have endorsed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

Jacinda Ardern, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau, are among those who endorsedthe pledge, stating the world is in a “state of planetary emergency: the interdependent crises of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and climate change” and that this emergency requires “urgent and immediate global action.”

News of the leaders’ participation, announced Sept. 28, comes ahead of the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity this week. It builds upon mounting support for a science-based target: to protect 30% of the planet by 2030, which is included in the most recent draft of the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity as one of its 20 post-2020 strategies. Borris Johnson, for instance, promised to increase UK protected areas to 30% by 2030.

The pledge addresses sustainable food systems and supply chains, eliminating unregulated fishing, reducing air pollution, integrating a “One-Health” approach, and “shifting land use and agricultural policies away from environmentally harmful practices for land and marine ecosystems.”

25 September 2020


Open warfare erupts between EPA and Forestry Corporation:

https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-23/barilaro-logging-proposal-in-koala-habitat-gets-rebuke-from-epa/12692102?fbclid=IwAR2fr1e02ZWZayR9THNMz37UiwryNvPnljFOFI_7VvWare1Ym9W1hqDHd5c
Agreements to change logging rules in New South Wales to better protect animals that survived last summer's bushfires have been torn up by Deputy Premier John Barilaro's department and government-owned loggers, sparking yet another inter-government stoush over koala habitat.

Key points:

  • The proposed changes sparked a fiery response from the NSW Environmental Protection Agency
  • The documents, which are now public, also detail allegations the Forestry Corporation of NSW made false reports about its logging operations to avoid new protections
  • The revelations, which sparked an internal war in the NSW Government last week, are the latest controversy over koala habitats

An explosive letter sent earlier this month to the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from the heads of the Department of Regional NSW ­ Mr Barilaro's department ­ and Forestry Corporation of NSW states there has now been "substantial recovery post-fire in many coastal state forests".

It declares logging in NSW can return to "standard" this month in forests not covered by new site-specific logging rules.

The letter comes despite an agreement struck between the loggers and the EPA earlier this year to only log areas according to those new rules.

The letter sparked a fiery response from EPA boss Tracey Mackey, which was published yesterday on the EPA's website.

She said the move did not appear to be lawful, and the EPA was now considering action to stop Forestry Corporation.

The EPA's independent report said recovery took between 10 and 120 years, depending on the species.

For koalas, forests needed about 45 years to recover, it said.

In April, a brief to Environment Minister Matt Kean detailed how Forestry Corporation agreed to an EPA request to voluntarily not log in unburned forests while new rules were agreed to, but then reneged.

The brief says the move was motivated by Mr Barilaro who "asked them to deliver on contractual obligations".

The documents also contain a brief by the EPA detailing alleged false reports by Forestry Corporation.

The EPA said Forestry Corporation falsely declared hundreds of logging operations were already active when they weren't.

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/09/time-to-choose-protection-or-extinction-for-koalas/

While the National Party demands that no effective legislation is brought in to protect koalas and their habitat there is a significant risk that both State and Commonwealth legal obligations will be contravened if post fire logging continues under existing agreements.

North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is calling for urgent surveys to identify and protect areas where koalas and other vulnerable species have survived the fires given the EPA’s advice that logging of fire refugia could cause catastrophic population declines in species such as the koala, greater glider and yellow-bellied glider.

The expert advice obtained by the EPA from Dr Andrew Smith warns that the combined impacts of logging and burning will be devastating on wildlife and contravene State and Commonwealth legal obligations unless there is immediate protection of fire refugia and a reduction in logging intensity, according to NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

‘While the National Party are demanding that the impacts of the fires on wildlife and timber resources be ignored to continue logging public forests as usual, it is a welcome change to see the EPA standing up for wildlife against their bully-boy tactics,’ Mr Pugh said.

Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has also slammed the posturing of Deputy Premier John Barilaro and his National Party colleagues over the Koala SEPP following the release of correspondence from Nationals MPs to key government ministers that showed only a handful of letters and emails were received about the issue, with the most significant number of correspondence on behalf of logging interests.

The documents make clear that the few representations that were made were overwhelming from logging and timber industry interests and property developers.

‘It is not just koalas, there has been a massive loss of timber resources from these fires. Timber commitments need to be immediately reduced to take the pressure off surviving wildlife for the remaining three years of the Wood Supply Agreements.

‘While the government uses inflated and vague job claims to justify logging, the industry itself identifies that there are just 566 direct jobs in north-east NSW dependent on the unsustainable logging of public native forests.

‘To put this into perspective, over the ten years 2006–16 the NSW timber industry shed 7,396 jobs due to over-logging and restructuring. If we want to save our wildlife, we need to complete the restructure of the industry into plantations as soon as possible,’ Mr Pugh said.

Myrtle continues on:

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/09/nannas-support-koalas-and-nefa-in-casino/

The Knitting Nannas are holding regular public knit-ins in Casino in support of NEFA, to raise awareness about Forestry operations logging in koala habitat in particular in Myrtle Forest, near Casino which was severely impacted by last summers’ fires.

‘We posted 21 letters to John Barrelaro signed by locals urging protection of koalas and cessation of logging burnt native forests. 

‘As Minister responsible for forestry however, his position is now totally untenable.’

Forestry use scat-dogs to resurrect Koalas in Kiwarrak, while refusing to use them elsewhere:

https://www.winghamchronicle.com.au/story/6929852/wwf-report-of-likely-100-per-cent-loss-of-koalas-in-kiwarrak-misleading/

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/koalas-alive-and-well-in-kiwarrak-after-hillville-fire/

The Forestry Corporation has rejected reports suggesting that there has been a 100% decline in koalas in the Kiwarrak area due to the Hillville fire. Source: Timberbiz

“Kiwarrak State Forest was impacted by the Hillville fire in November 2019. As soon as the immediate fire threat passed, we took a range of steps to support impacted wildlife including adding water points and undertaking koala surveys with sniffer dogs,” Mr Slade said.

Between late November and early December, Forestry Corporation spent five days carrying out searches with koala detection dogs, finding six koalas and collecting multiple pellets, indicating more koalas were present. Further koala sightings and pellet records have also been detected in surveys over the past three months.

“The survey results show that koalas are still living in fire affected areas. The results also show that it helps to use multiple survey methods to detect koalas, which can be very hard to spot in the tree tops,” Mr Slade said.

The Koala crisis continues:

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/6933141/port-macquarie-mp-leslie-williams-quits-the-nats/?utm_email=908390c4ba&utm_source=Port+News&utm_campaign=7af1b0364b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_09_20_07_15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0248e1f13e-7af1b0364b-66170441

PORT Macquarie MP Leslie Williams has walked away from The National Party.

Her resignation was made effectively immediately on September 20.

"Last week, I advised the Deputy Premier that I would not be supporting his actions or those of my Nationals colleagues in effectively putting the entire party on the crossbench," Mrs Williams said.

"The NSW Liberals and Nationals have delivered unprecedented investment across the Port Macquarie electorate and to put this in jeopardy and hold the Premier and the Government to ransom during this COVID-19 pandemic was unnecessary, unhelpful and frankly politically reckless and unreasonable.

"The events of the past week have represented a further example of a course of conduct and dealing that has once again effectively been condoned and failed to be addressed.

https://www.afr.com/politics/nsw-liberals-welcome-nationals-defector-over-koala-spat-20200921-p55xpp

The laws at the centre of the spat have been in place since March and leave developers facing more hurdles when it comes to building in areas marked as koala habitats.

Ms Williams said the laws were "absolutely not a hill worth dying on".

If the Nationals had repealed the laws, she said she would have faced voter backlash in her electorate, which was devastated by the summer bushfires.

"I think you'll struggle to find anyone in my electorate that doesn't believe that we shouldn't be doing everything we can to protect koala habitat," she said.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/tough-nutted-nats-up-a-gum-tree-on-koalas-20200915-p55vye.html

Contrary to what Joyce suggests, the Premier has distanced herself from her deputy. Joyce cannot see the white-hot fury in the majority of the population who wish to save koalas not extinguish them. Lindsay Somerville, Lindfield

His claim to represent country people in a war with city people is, of course, humbug. Just as Barilaro represents big land-holders and developers, Joyce speaks for big agribusiness, not the small land holders who form the basis of Australian horticulture. This deception has worked well for Joyce and the Nationals in the past. It is time that it ended. Norman Carter, Roseville Chase

Barilaro has a tin ear. He chose the wrong issue at the wrong time. His delivery was nothing more than crude blackmail. Taxpayers have a right to be affronted, whether politically engaged or not. Little wonder Barnaby’s on the backbench.Russell Murphy, Bayview

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/sep/22/former-head-of-nsw-young-nationals-quits-party-after-despicable-koala-policy-saga

The former head of the New South Wales Young Nationals and chair of its women’s council has resigned from the party joining a growing list of high-profile members to quit in the wake of the koala policy saga.

Jess Price-Purnell, an almost decade-long member of the Nationals, has left, describing the threat by John Barilaro to blow up the Coalition government over the koala policy saga “despicable”.

The former head of the New South Wales Young Nationals and chair of its women’s council has resigned from the party joining a growing list of high-profile members to quit in the wake of the koala policy saga.

Jess Price-Purnell, an almost decade-long member of the Nationals, has left, describing the threat by John Barilaro to blow up the Coalition government over the koala policy saga “despicable”.

In the opinion piece published last Saturday, she said claims by the party’s leadership that the new koala policy would cost jobs was “almost laughable”

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/09/nefa-do-the-nationals-really-want-to-kill-koalas/

A spokesperson for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) says that the group believe that the National Party has been intentionally misleading the community over their attacks on the Koala SEPP as decisions had already been made months before to abandon the maps and exclude logging and landclearing, making it perplexing as to what truly motivated their actions.

NEFA’s Dailan Pugh said with 61% of the north coast’s “likely” koala habitat remaining on private lands, and probably less than 6,000 koalas left, we cannot save the koala from extinction without protecting its core habitat on private lands. ‘It is extremely concerning that the National’s attacks on Koala protections have been based on misinformation.

Mr Pugh said that given that the Nationals knew the map would no longer be used they have been deliberately misleading the community by making this mapping the focus of their attacks on the SEPP.

Mr Pugh said that before their threat to bring down the Government, the National Party seem to have succeeded is excluding land-clearing and logging from the ambit of the Koala SEPP. ‘So that only leaves development as the real target of heir revolt.

‘Now that the map of likely Koala habitat has been thrown out and core Koala habitat mapped by Council’s will no longer apply to logging operations and land clearing, if the Koala is to be saved it is essential that the NSW Government step up and undertake urgent and accurate mapping of core Koala habitat itself for application across NSW.’

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/trying-to-calm-the-farm-coalition-in-talks-to-prevent-koala-war-ii-20200923-p55yjj.html

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes is working to prevent a showdown in cabinet over the contested koala policy, with the acting Nationals leader initiating new discussions ahead of the debate.

Mr Stokes had his first meeting with acting deputy premier Paul Toole on Wednesday to discuss the policy since the Deputy Premier John Barilaro went on mental health leave for a month.

Ms Williams' defection means the Nationals have lost four seats since Mr Barilaro has been leader; Lismore, Murray, Barwon and now Port Macquarie.

Former Nationals leader and deputy premier Troy Grant also last week resigned from the party, while former Water Minister and deputy leader Niall Blair has not renewed his membership.

Koala being considered for national listing as Endangered:

On Save the Koala Day, the much-loved marsupial has moved a step closer to an endangered listing on the east coast, after a nomination by conservation groups who welcomed the increased attention on the plight of the species.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has added the combined koala populations of Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT to the priority list for assessment by her independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC).

She has given the committee a deadline of October 2021 to work through the science and make a recommendation on whether east coast koalas should be uplisted from vulnerable to endangered.

The priority assessment list was published this afternoon and can be viewed here

Humane Society International (HSI), the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare jointly nominated the koala to be listed as endangered in March.

As an indication of their rapid decline, if east coast koalas are listed as endangered they will have gone from being not listed, to listed as vulnerable, to listed as endangered in the space of a decade.

The conservation groups also welcome the priority treatment for many other bushfire impacted species such as the greater glider, yellow-bellied glider, long-nosed bandicoot, long-nosed potoroo, and eight Kangaroo Island bird species.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/25/sliding-towards-extinction-koala-may-be-given-endangered-listing-as-numbers-plummet

The iconic species, which is currently listed as vulnerable under national environment laws, is among 28 animals that could have their threat status upgraded, the federal environment minister, Sussan Ley, said on Friday.

The greater glider, which had 30% of its habitat range affected by the bushfire crisis, is also being assessed to determine whether it should move from vulnerable to endangered, while several frog and fish species, including the Pugh’s frog and the Blue Mountains perch, are being considered for critically endangered listings.

The 28 species included on the finalised priority assessment list for formal assessment in the 2020 period include two reptiles, four frogs, seven fish, six mammals and 12 birds, bringing the total number of species currently being assessed to 108.

Koala reserves in waiting burnt:

Almost three-quarters of key habitat the Berejiklian government was planning to set aside for koala protection was burned in last summer's fires.

The government announced in May 2018, it would begin to address the decline of koala numbers including preserving extra habitat, according to a Planning Department paper dated June 23 this year.

However, last season's devastating bushfires burnt more than 5 million hectares in the state. Of the state forests transferred to national park tenure, 72 per cent "were impacted", as were about 58 per cent proposed flora reserve, the documents show.

Mr Stokes said the introduction of the Koala SEPP "was based on years of scientific research into our declining koala population. Without doing something we risked our national icon becoming extinct".

“The fact is you can’t save the koala and remove koala habitat at the same time," Mr Stokes said. "The core of this policy is to protect our koalas for all Australians, and for generations to come.”

Koalas get a new home:

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/fewer-than-200-wild-koalas-survive-near-this-nsw-town-the-locals-hope-to-change-that

The 69-year-old former mining industry executive has a passion for saving koalas and this week he will achieve a long-cherished goal with the opening of the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary (PSK) on Saturday 26 September. 

Built at a total cost of $10 million, it will be a mixture of tourism and conservation. 

The nine metre high koala skywalk and accomodation complex offers domestic, and eventually international visitors, a chance to see and stay near the animals, while a vetinary clinic will treat koalas that are sick and injured, rescued from the local area.

In a submission to the NSW Government on the area's koala population, the society wrote: "scientists have recently estimated the koala population has declined from 800 to less than 100 to 200 today".

“We've got everything we could possibly need to treat the koalas and get them back to health, it’s fantastic.”

“We’re also moving into a targeted koala breeding program," Mr Land said. "The goal is to release healthy [koalas] back into selected sites in the wild, bred from the koalas here under permanent care.”

It is expected it will attract 40,000 tourists annually by its third year of operation and income from visitors who stay overnight in the glamping tents and motel-style rooms will help pay for the estimated $450,000 cost of koala care each year.

... you win some, you lose some:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-25/nsw-environment-minister-backs-down-brandy-hill-quarr-koala/12705640
Just moments after opening a new koala sanctuary, the NSW Environment Minister has backed away from his own Government's approval of a controversial quarry that would see the destruction of 52 hectares of koala habitat in the state's Hunter region.

The State Government this year approved the expansion of the Brandy Hill Quarry in Port Stephens, with the project now before Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley for rubber stamping.

But in an apparent backflip, NSW environment minister Matt Kean has ramped up the pressure on Ms Ley to knock back the development.

"My message to the Federal Environment Minister is, 'You should be looking very closely at this Brandy Hill decision because a lot is turning on the decision you will make'," he said.

Broadwater action had some coverage, the news is that the Tarkeeth plantations are now native forests:

https://www.echo.net.au/2020/09/where-is-the-sense-in-burning-forests-for-power/

The Biomass Action Group (BAG) and Bellingen community members joined together last Friday to challenge Cape Byron Power (CBP) and its claim of ‘never burning native forest residues’.

They say CBP was created in part by a former business development manager from UK energy generator Drax Power. Two projects in Condong and Broadwater burn sugar cane waste, although this is not the only feedstock.

The Biomass Action Group say that trucks laden with molasses, hoppers filled with native forest salvage logs, burnt pine logs, and woodchips have created huge mountains of wood behind locked gates – this is all burnt in the furnaces of Broadwater mill to generate electricity.

‘Tarkeeth is a recovering native forest sixty years old sitting on steep slopes of fragile soils between the Bellinger and the Kalang Rivers, where the fresh water meets the salt water.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/coffscoast/programs/breakfast/breakfast/12657512

You can hear Tim Cadman from 2:06:10

Road impact of concern to council:

https://www.oberonreview.com.au/story/6936666/council-seeks-road-routes-to-determine-timber-haulage-toll/?cs=1495

OBERON Council is looking ahead so it can plan for the toll to be taken on district roads by hauled timber.

At council's most recent ordinary meeting, councillor Clive McCarthy moved a motion, which was carried, for council to write to the Forests NSW state manager seeking the intended route to haul the pine plantation timber which is bound by Abercrombie, Mozart and Murrays Lane that has no council road frontage.

Cr McCarthy said contact with the local manager had been fruitless and council needs the information for its long-term planning.

"Impact on local roads from logging is huge, so we need a response so we can plan these haulage routes."

Cr Andrew McKibbin added that council needs to know if Forests NSW is going to contribute to the upgrade of roads to cater for large haulage trucks.

A lot is going on in Victoria:

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/why-the-fight-to-save-the-rare-leadbeaters-possum-threatens-to-fell-the-native-timber-industry/news-story/7a5ca07ae040daf46f616769dc9e1247

In a landmark ruling, the court decided VicForests had been logging unlawfully in 26 areas of habitat ­critical to the two mammals, and planned to log unlawfully in 41 more. Four more groups have filed legal action against the agency and at least 92 logging zones covering about 3575ha are now under injunction. Already struggling to fulfil wood pulp contracts after years of logging, plus losing forest to bushfires and now court cases, ­VicForests’ preferred native timber supply is fast drying up, and with it Victoria’s native timber industry. It’s an industry already on its last legs since the Andrews Government announced it would be phased out from 2024, ending in 2030. But many doubt it will last that long.

Smelling blood in the water, the Bob Brown Foundation has lodged its own Federal Court case against Tasmanian state-owned logging agency Sustainable Timber Tasmania, challenging the validity of the legal framework forestry operates under. It hopes a win will achieve an immediate ban on native timber logging and open doors for ­similar action in other states.

But what no court or government can control, and what insiders say the industry is most worried about, is the waning social licence for native forest products, something the country’s most powerful retailers are all too aware of. In July, four weeks after the Federal Court judgment, hardware giant Bunnings announced it was dumping VicForests timber from its shelves.

WOTCH will have its day in Victoria’s Supreme Court next month when it will allege that ­VicForests breached the precautionary principle again by logging in unburnt areas remaining from last summer’s devastating bushfires without waiting for surveys to be done on the impacts of those fires on threatened species.

In response to the “forest wars” of the 1980s and 1990s, former prime minister Paul Keating introduced Regional Forestry Agreements (RFAs) between the Commonwealth and four state governments – NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia – that grant forestry an exemption from the EPBC Act. But it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card. VicForests must comply with the Victorian Code of Practice for Timber Production and if the code is breached, the exemption is lost. The Federal Court found that VicForests’ practices did not comply with the code and therefore contravened the EPBC Act in all 66 coupes.

Justice Debra Mortimer’s 451-page judgment was indeed scathing. She found the evidence of VicForests’ expert witnesses to be neither strong nor independent. She said VicForests relied on desktop modelling to predict where threatened species might be, rather than going out and looking. She also had little confidence in its “new” forestry methods, which she found were not designed for conservation but driven by commercial motivations. ... “VicForests regard species such as the greater glider as an inconvenience – an interruption to its timber harvesting programs” was Justice Mortimer’s blunt assessment.

“If the ­[Federal Court] judgment stands there’s no reason it wouldn’t apply in all states,” says Ross Hampton, CEO of timber body Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA).

[In 2011] Rees’s group lost the case and was ordered to pay VicForests’ costs of $1.25 million (which remains unpaid). She says during that period she was subjected to violence and intimidation. “They burgled my house, ran me off the road with my two babies in the back of the car, then ran over my dog. I was abused, had rape threats, death threats, my mail was constantly stolen.” But in the years since, Rees says the breeze has noticeably shifted. “Healesville used to be a timber town, now it’s a tourism town.” Today she’s more likely to be ­congratulated than castigated, she says.

The Victorian Government has put forward a $120 million transition package to plantation-only timber by 2030 and Federal Government figures show that the state already harvests more than seven times more plantation logs than native forest logs.

In March the ­Herald Sun reported that the Andrews Government gave Opal Australian Paper $200 million in a “secret deal” to secure the mill’s future.

VicForests receives generous taxpayer subsidies, but losses on its logging operations have ­trebled over the past three years. It lost $15 million on those operations last year. A 2016 PwC audit found that VicForests is “not competitive or ­financially viable”, and that for every dollar of investment it returns 14 cents, ­providing “minimal economic and employment return on investment”.

The Weekend Australian Magazine understands that to prevent further legal challenges, the Victorian Government is looking at options to remove the precautionary principle and third-party rights to sue.

Hollowing out forests:

https://science.anu.edu.au/news-events/news/fire-and-logging-reduce-homes-threatened-mammals

Fire and logging are substantially reducing the number of hollow-bearing trees that threatened and critically endangered Australian mammals can use as homes, a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) warns. 

The findings come as the number of Australian mammals which live and nest in tree hollows is also declining. 

It found a direct relationship between the number of hollow-bearing trees in an area and the number of possums and gliders living there. The study also found the number of critically endangered Leadbeater's possums has declined in areas where the surrounding landscape has been logged. 

"We found evidence for a decline in the occurrence of all species of tree-dwelling marsupials," Professor Lindenmayer said.

[Luckily Forestry Corp put 100 back]

https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acv.12634

We found evidence that: (1) The number of hollow‐bearing trees (which are critical den sites for arboreal marsupials) has declined substantially in the past two decades. (2) There was a decline in all species of arboreal marsupials. (3) The presence of all species of arboreal marsupials was positively linked to the number of large old hollow‐bearing trees at a site. (4) The extent of logging disturbance in the landscape surrounding a site had a positive impact on the sugar glider Petaurus breviceps but a negative effect on Leadbeater’s possum. This suggests that ongoing logging will have further negative impacts on Leadbeater’s possum. (5) The presence of the greater glider and sugar glider declined with increasing amounts of fire in the landscape.

And in WA the loggers and beekeepers have teamed up against National Parks:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-23/bee-honey-forest-industries-wa-beekeepers-australian-food/12693910

Beekeepers and the logging industry rarely see eye-to-eye on how native forest assets should be managed, but in a shock move the two sectors have teamed up to improve native forest access for honey producers.

But this week, the Forest Industry Federation of WA (FIFWA) and the Bee Industry Council of WA (BICWA) presented a joint policy statement to the State Government entitled Bees and Trees together in Business, aimed at strengthening ties between the sectors.

The statement said both industries share concerns about the conversion of state forest to national park.

"A lot of these sites have been taken away from us over the years with regard to water catchment areas and national parks, and we just want to get some continuity to try get some of those back," he said.

The joint policy position has come as a surprise to some honey producers, such as Michael Cernotta, who runs a commercial beekeeping business on his property near Pemberton, about 320 kilometres south of Perth.

"Historically and particularly recently the logging industry has been logging out a number of highly valuable bee sites," he said.

"I'll be very blunt about it: the timber industry wants the big old trees, and those are the exact trees that the beekeepers need to produce honey from.

"What we need are forests that are 80, 90, 100 years old to sustain our bees, just because trees go back in the ground…they're actually no use to a beekeeper for a minimum of 40 years."

We need to look below:

https://www.miragenews.com/wildfires-logging-affect-fungi-pine-forests-depend-on-for-survival-studies-show/

Disturbances can hit Alberta’s lodgepole pine forests hard—including life under the soil, new University of Alberta research shows.

Fungal communities that nourish pine tree roots are being altered by both human-made and natural disturbances, which can stress forests and make it tougher for pine seedlings to regenerate ...

One of the studies, published in New Phytologist, showed that ectomycorrhizal fungi—a type that lodgepole pine trees rely on to survive—decline after disturbances like wildfire, clear-cut logging and salvage logging. At the same time, other types of fungi can increase and potentially alter the forest’s nutrient cycle.

“Drought, wildfire and logging can overwhelm the environment with increased stress, and if it passes a certain threshold, it’s possible the forest ecosystem will never go back to how it was before; that resiliency is compromised.”

Pine seedlings growing in soils affected by clear-cut and salvage logging were weaker and smaller than those grown in soils affected by natural disturbances, according to the second study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

“The seedlings don’t adapt as well to man-made disturbances, possibly because of soil compaction due to harvesting,” he suggested.

As the human virus attacks the earth's lungs:

https://nationalpost.com/pmn/environment-pmn/surge-in-forest-loss-seen-if-brazil-indigenous-reserves-opened-to-mining

BRASILIA, Sept 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A Brazilian government proposal to open indigenous land in Brazil to mining concessions could lead to the loss of forests over an area larger than England, researchers said Friday.

Such a loss would reduce by $5 billion a year the global benefits the forest provides in terms of things such as forest products, rainfall generation and storage of climate-changing emissions, they estimated.

A bill introduced in Brazil’s Congress in February proposes opening indigenous land in the Amazon and elsewhere to mining, hydroelectric plants, oil and gas projects and livestock farming.

Such development could be carried out over the objections of indigenous communities living on the land, according to the bill, supported by large numbers of members of Congress aligned with agribusiness and extractive industries.

As California is ravished by fires, some are trying to stop trees being burnt:

https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/legal-petition-seeks-close-california-forest-carbon-loophole-2020-09-24/

SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation and environmental justice groups filed a legal petition today that demands the California Public Utilities Commission stop letting carbon-polluting biomass projects take advantage of programs meant to benefit clean energy.

Today’s petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, California Chaparral Institute and John Muir Project calls on the commission to require that woody biomass energy projects demonstrate they are carbon neutral or better before they get special ratepayer subsidies.

“Woody biomass energy is a false solution that worsens climate change and air quality and harms wildlife,” said Lauren Packard, the Center attorney who authored the petition. “The idea that incinerating trees is good for the environment and public health is utterly absurd. Woody biomass energy is also extremely expensive, and through these ratepayer subsidies, the costs get passed on to consumers.”

https://www.euractiv.com/section/biomass/news/eu-climate-plan-blows-hot-and-cold-on-forestry-biomass/

While recognising the positive role of forests in mitigating global warming, the European Commission has riled the agroforestry and biomass industries by stating its intention of limiting growth in the sector.

Will the EU impose a cap on the number of trees that can be felled in Europe each year? Judging by the Commission’s 2030 climate plan, presented last week, this is now looking like a distinct possibility.

The capacity of forests to act as a “carbon sink” – absorbing more CO2 than they emit – is decreasing and needs to be reversed, the Commission said in its new climate plan for 2030.

Critics say burning wood immediately releases CO2 which took years or even decades to accumulate during the tree’s growth phase. This, they argue, creates a “carbon debt” for future generations until new trees can grow back and suck an equivalent amount of CO2.

And since time is running out to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2°C, they argue urgent action must be taken now to prevent a further increase in biomass burning for energy generation.

“Any unsustainable intensification of forest harvesting for bioenergy purposes should be avoided,” the EU executive warned, saying “the use of whole trees and food and feed crops for energy production – produced in the EU or imported – should be minimised” in order to limit the impact on climate and biodiversity.

In Germany, the government is currently debating a “tree premium” of €125 per hectare as a way to reward forest owners for reducing carbon emissions. The premiums would be linked to the EU carbon market, meaning that if CO2 prices rise, the tree premium would also increase.

https://www.neweurope.eu/article/europe-is-perversely-causing-the-destruction-of-u-s-forests-in-the-name-of-fighting-climate-change/

... though many may believe that solar and wind power are the main sources of the EU’s renewable energy, it is actually biomass, which represents nearly 60 percent of the total.

To add insult to injury, in the absence of sufficient supplies of wood from its own forests, the EU is heavily reliant on importing wood pellets from forests far away. ...

The Southern U.S. is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of wood pellets. Under the guise of “renewable energy,” the voracious European demand for wood pellets has put forests and communities in this region at increased risk. Nearly 800 scientists warned members of the European Parliament that burning trees releases more carbon than coal or gas per unit of energy generated (making climate change worse), and they also pointed out that logging degrades critical ecological services that standing forests provide, such as natural flood control. Standing forests act like sponges, slowing the rate of water flow into streams and rivers, helping to prevent flooding. When a forest is cleared, the volume of water and soil erosion entering streams and rivers is accelerated during periods of heavy rain, causing rivers and streams to overflow.

Collectively defeating the insidious side of EU renewable energy is essential to avoid utter climate chaos. The sooner governments around the world can unite to move away from all dirty fuels—including coal, fracked gas and biomass—and lean toward actually protecting nature, the better.

More evidence that smoking is bad for you - is it the additives?:

https://theconversation.com/our-toxic-legacy-bushfires-release-decades-of-pollutants-absorbed-by-forests-145542

We know forests absorb carbon dioxide, but, like a sponge, they also soak up years of pollutants from human activity. When bushfires strike, these pollutants are re-released into the air with smoke and ash.

Our new research examined air samples from four major bushfires near Sydney between 1984 and 2004. We found traces of potentially toxic metals sourced from the city’s air — lead, cadmium and manganese — among the fine particles of soil and burnt vegetation in bushfire smoke.

These trace metals were associated with leaded petrol — which hasn’t been used since 2002 — and industrial emissions, which include past metal processing, fossil fuel burning, refineries, transport and power generation.

This means bushfires, such as the those that devastated Australia last summer, can remobilise pollutants we’ve long phased out.

While our study shows that potentially toxic metals were more elevated in the atmosphere during bushfires, the concentrations were not likely to be a health risk. The main risk is from the total concentration of fine particles in the air, rather than what they are made of.

A fire tally:

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/9/383372/World/International/Huge-wildfires-ravage-forests-worldwide.aspx

Between January and August, forest fires ravaged 121,318 square kilometres (46,841 square miles) in Brazil, of which 34,373 in the Amazon region and 18,646 in the Pantanal wetlands.

Fires have affected 11 Argentinian provinces out of 23, destroying some 120,000 hectares (296,526 acres).

After an outcry, after the fumes reached some of Siberia's most populous cities, President Vladimir Putin sent in the army to put out the fires as more than 3.2 million hectares burned.

In Indonesia, vast fires in 2019 ravaged the forests on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, destroying 1.6 million hectares, generating toxic fumes and massive emanations of greenhouse gases.

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/climate-fueled-wildfires-are-decimating-the-planet-s-forests/article/578392

Landscape-changing wildfires have become a concern worldwide as global warming creates fires that burn more ferociously and more frequently. Scientists are now asking just how much more devastation our forests and woodlands can take, and still survive?

However, climate change has made these regions more arid, allowing wildfires to become more ferocious, intense, and more frequent. Scientists now worry that the hottest blazes could end up obliterating large swaths of forests forever, reports NBC News.

And here's the big point of concern. If these massive tree-torching fires happen too frequently, like every year in the U.S. west, they will wipe out saplings before they can reach maturity. If the fires burn too hot, they will turn large areas of forest and grasslands into a moonscape barren of the seeds needed for new growth. Climate change could fuel conditions for both scenarios. According to the American Geophysical Union, researchers reported last year that California has seen a rise of 1.4 degrees Celsius in average summertime temperatures since the 1970s. This rise in temperature coincides with a five-fold increase in acreage burned annually.

“In some hotter and drier areas, the climate has shifted to the point where it’s no longer suitable for tree regeneration,” said Kimberley Davis, an ecologist at the University of Montana. “In those areas, once there is a fire, trees won’t grow back.”

In the southeastern Australian Alps, frequent wildfires since 2003 have caused the forest systems there to collapse, said David Bowman, a fire scientist at the University of Tasmania. As we’re doing the research project, another fire happened: Then the system crashed,” Bowman said. “It went from a forested state to a non-forested state. No forest, no trees – Kaput.”

... and Fir forests are feeling the heat:

https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2020/09/22/national/socialAffairs/climate-change-Korean-fir-tree-global-warming/20200922185100387.html

The Korean fir forest on Jeju Island's Mount Halla is the largest in the world.

But Korean firs are dying, tangible evidence of global warming.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200924141605.htm

In recent years -- and 2020 is no exception -- parts of the Pacific Northwest that are typically too wet to burn are experiencing more frequent, severe and larger wildfires due to changes in climate. New research from Portland State University found that while the increased wildfire activity is causing widespread changes in the structure and composition of these mid-to-high elevation forests, the new landscapes are also likely more resilient to projected upward trends in future fire activity and climate conditions.

Busby said that historically, wet and cool climate limited fire events in these humid forest environments to an interval of 50 to 200-plus years. But climate change has led to warmer winters, reduced mountain snowpack and longer, drier summers and fire seasons. The time between repeated wildfire events in this study was less than 12 years.

True firs were the dominant conifer tree species across the study areas, but post-fire tree regeneration was generally very poor due to a lack of live mature trees remaining after the fires to reseed the forest.

The burned areas, however, did support the establishment of pines at a low density, which are functionally better adapted to fire.

The dead should R.I.P:

https://www.miragenews.com/halt-post-disturbance-logging-in-forests/

Storms, fires, bark beetles: Many forests around the world are increasingly affected by these and other natural disturbances. It is common practice to eliminate the consequences of these disturbances – in other words, to harvest damaged trees as quickly as possible. Spruce trees attacked by bark beetles are removed from the forest, as are dryed beeches or trees thrown to the ground by storms.

“However, this practice is an additional disturbance that has a negative impact on biodiversity,” says Dr. Simon Thorn ...

... an international research team led by Simon Thorn has analyzed data global dataset on natural forest disturbances. In the journal Nature Communications, the scientists conclude that if around 75 percent of a naturally disturbed forest area is not cleared, 90 percent of its original species richness will be preserved. If only half of a disturbed forest is left untouched, around a quarter of the species will be lost. “These numbers can serve as a simple rule of thumb for leaving natural disturbances in forests unlogged,” says Thorn.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18612-4

We find that 75 ± 7% (mean ± SD) of a naturally disturbed area of a forest needs to be left unlogged to maintain 90% richness of its unique species, whereas retaining 50% of a naturally disturbed forest unlogged maintains 73 ± 12% of its unique species richness. These values do not change with the time elapsed since disturbance but vary considerably among taxonomic groups.

We can expect that the next year will be a land of flooding rains and cyclones rather than droughts and bushfires:

https://theconversation.com/our-new-model-shows-australia-can-expect-11-tropical-cyclones-this-season-146318?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20September%2023%202020%20-%201739116834&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20September%2023%202020%20-%201739116834+CID_aaceea4e7aeed65c719121ec10beb646&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Our%20new%20model%20shows%20Australia%20can%20expect%2011%20tropical%20cyclones%20this%20season

And the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather and climate model indicates there’s a 95% chance a La Niña will be established by October this year.

above normal activity is expected for the Eastern region (eastern Australia) with four cyclones expected. Probable range between three and six cyclones; with a 55% chance of four or more cyclones

While we continue to rampage thru forests, do we need to plant trees to save us?

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/planting-1-trillion-trees-save-the-planet-sustainability

  • According to climate scientists, if we don't make significant progress in combating carbon emissions, global temperatures could rise above the critical 1.5°C threshold, permanently damaging the natural systems that sustain us.
  • The planting of trees could become a vital part of this puzzle, as they help absorb the carbon we produce.
  • The Trillion Tree challenge plans to regenerate the planet through the planting of 1 trillion trees, capturing an estimated 200 gigatonnes of carbon over the coming decades.

By far the most cost-effective of all the big solutions is to protect and restore forests. Forests extract and store CO2 from the atmosphere and produce the oxygen we breathe. But these complex ecosystems have been systematically destroyed. We have already lost nearly half the world’s trees, most within the last 100 years. And most of the remaining trees—about 3 trillion—are still under threat, even though they are a critical tool in the fight against climate change.

At this moment in time, massive fires have yet again erupted around the world, from California to the Congo Basin to the Amazon. Far too many of these fires are intentionally set because agricultural profits have been prioritized over the health of our planet. A call to stop deforestation is more important than ever before.

Planting 1 trillion trees won’t be easy, but each one of us can make a difference in this fight. We can plant trees in backyards and neighborhoods, or donate to one of the many responsible programs that have long been restoring and protecting forests and woodlands in almost every country around the world.

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/australia-will-plant-25-million-trees-by-2025/

An astonishing 25 million trees will be planted across Australia over the next five years to aid bushfire recovery. 

Global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, EverGreening Alliance and Greening Australia have united for the project, which officially launched this week. The initiative, expected to become one of Australia’s largest-ever restoration projects, will cover 20,000 hectares of land and generate habitats for dozens of threatened and endangered animals.

The trees are also expected to lift 4.25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the environment over a quarter century.

https://e360.yale.edu/features/natural-debate-do-forests-grow-better-with-our-help-or-without

Planting is widely seen as a vital “nature-based solution” to climate change — a way of moderating climate change in the next three decades as the world works to achieve a zero-carbon economy. But there is pushback.

Nobody condemns trees. But some critics argue that an aggressive drive to achieve planting targets will provide environmental cover for land grabs to blanket hundreds of millions of acres with monoculture plantations of a handful of fast-growing and often non-native commercial species such as acacia, eucalyptus, and pine. Others ask: Why plant at all, when we can often simply leave the land for nearby forests to seed and recolonize? Nature knows what to grow, and does it best.

Cook-Patton’s new study, published in Nature and co-authored by researchers from 17 academic and environmental organizations ...

But overall, besides being better for biodiversity, the study showed, natural regeneration can capture more carbon more quickly and more securely than plantations.

Cook-Patton agrees that as climate change gathers pace in the coming decades, rates of carbon accumulation will change. But while some forests will grow more slowly or even die, others will probably grow faster due to the fertilization effect of more carbon dioxide in the air, an existing phenomenon sometimes called global greening.

The study identified up to 1.67 billion acres that could be set aside to allow trees to regrow.

Combining the mapping and carbon accumulation data, Cook-Patton estimates that natural forest regrowth could capture in biomass and soils 73 billion tons of carbon between now and 2050. That is equal to around seven years of current industrial emissions, making it “the single largest natural climate solution.”

The great thing about natural restoration of forests is t