Weekly Forest News


Forest Media 7 May 2021

Redbank had another outing as our campaign gathers momentum. Koalas to star in new movie, get in the way of attempts to resurrect Dunoon Dam, get funding on the mid north coast, and make a good present for Mothers Day. As they continue to clear Koala habitat for highways and housing estates in south east Queensland they are putting $7.5 million into wildlife hospitals, focussing on vaccinating for Chlamydia aggravated by the stress they are causing.

The proposed 39,000 ha Gardens of Stone addition to the Blue Mountains National Park garners parliamentary interest as miners set to undermine it. Burnt pine forests a boon to logging companies, and they expect us to praise them for capitalising on the windfall, though as the pine bonanza comes to an end they will soon cry poor and seek to ramp up native forest logging.

As Suzanne Simard continues her book promotion she reveals more fascinating insights into the woodwide web, such as trees bequeathing their accumulated wealth to those close to them before they die.

The fight over British Columbia’s oldgrowth forests is hotting up as both forest actions and logging accelerate. In Oregon conservationists are fighting to stop the logging of dead trees. The scarry news is that the Amazon has passed the tipping point where, thanks to clearing, logging and fires, it has become a net emitter of carbon dioxide, and the process of rainforests degrading to grasslands has begun. Once forests stop taking up 30% of our emissions they become part of the problem rather than the solution, and we’re screwed. Amazon’s intent to offset its emissions with commercial forestry is part of the problem.  

Dailan Pugh

Redbank gets another run:

The Singleton Argus has a front page article about the local ALP Federal member Joel Fitzgibbon extolling the 50 jobs that burning over a million tonnes of forests per annum will generate in Singleton (not to mention all the employment in cutting and transporting trees), with The Greens candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election Sue Abbott opposing it.

"This is our valley's transition nightmare," said RAG spokesperson David Burgess. "At a time when the best minds in the Hunter are coming together to negotiate a difficult path beyond coal, the last thing we need is a Trojan horse of fake forest logging jobs masquerading as green energy."

"There is no way any maths in the world adds up to this being renewable. On the face of it, and in the wake of enormous pressure on the EU and the USA to cease and desist, Hunter Energy seems to be claiming that it has purchased a sawmill in Millfield and turned it into a woodchip mill bigger than Eden," Mr Burgess said.

https://www.singletonargus.com.au/story/7235389/redbank-pushes-biomass-credentials/?cs=1534

Koala stars:

The makers of Cultivating Murder are making a film The Koala Corridor  which focuses on the future of Koalas around south-west and southern Sydney, they are currently crowd-funding to raise the budget.

A 10 minute preview, with exclusive footage and interviews, will be showing at Hazelhurst Gallery, Gymea on May 16.

https://www.theleader.com.au/story/7231862/new-film-to-show-our-koalas/

The National Party won’t let the Dunoon Dam go away, though Koalas are getting in their way:

Dr Steve Phillips from Biolink Ecological Consultants says the Dunoon koala population has different genetic origins.

‘These koalas are more robust and outbred than other koala populations to the south and east, which are, in contrast, immunologically compromised and demonstrably inbred,’ he said.

‘The Dunoon koalas thus have lots to offer these other koalas which suffer from high disease levels and associated mortalities, as well as the manifestation of physical traits of inbreeding such as smaller average body sizes and microcephaly,’ said Dr Phillips.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/05/dam-doesnt-give-a-damn-about-koalas/

Mid north-coast groups working on Koalas have received a $130,000 Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Community Grant from the federal government

The funds will be distributed across five focus areas, including the implementation of a koala and community road safety program at Tinonee, working with TIDE to plant koala food trees at Cattai Wetlands, koala connectivity modelling and evaluating revegetation scenarios in the Kiwarrak Area of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS), strengthening koala refuges and corridors, and assisting bushfire affected landowners to re-establish vegetation on their properties.

https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/7235146/boost-for-local-koalas-with-bushfire-recovery-funding/

https://www.miragenews.com/boost-for-our-koalas-553098/

And why not pay Port Macquarie Koala Hospital $50 to adopt a Koala for Mother’s Day?

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/adopt-a-koala-for-mothers-day-68991

Mid Coast region identifies priorities:

The fauna species that Council has identified for priority action in the Draft Roadmap For Managing Our Natural Environment includes, threatened shorebirds (little tern, pied oystercatcher), our squirrel glider population at Forster the yellow-bellied gliders at Smiths Lake, the Manning River helmeted turtle, giant dragonfly, the grey-crowned babbler population at Gloucester the koala and the long-nosed potoroo.

There are also three flora species identified the Manning threatened eucalypts (narrow-leaved red gum and slaty red gum), Guthrie’s grevillea, and the Threatened terrestrial orchids (Wingham doubletail, Tuncurry midge orchid).

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/fauna-and-flora-at-risk-in-myall-coast-region-69078

As Queensland clears Koala’s homes for roads and houses at least they treat the consequences:

The Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre has had an $830,000 refurbishment with the latest diagnostic equipment.

One of the centre's main tasks is to administer vaccines for Chlamydia, a disease which is having a devastating impact on koala populations.

http://www.ecns.cn/news/2021-05-05/detail-ihakynqm6148627.shtml

“Together with these three wildlife hospitals, Moggill forms what is called the SEQ Wildlife Hospital Network, and for the last five years, the Queensland Government has contributed $7.5 million towards supporting this important public-private partnership.

“The project plans to vaccinate up to 500 koalas presenting to several south east Queensland wildlife hospitals for care including Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, RSPCA Wildlife Hospital and the Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre,” Ms Scanlon said.

https://mysunshinecoast.com.au/news/news-display/refurbished-moggill-koala-rehabilitation-centre-opens,65534

https://www.ausleisure.com.au/news/moggill-koala-rehabilitation-centre-reopens-following-major-upgrades/

Renewed Push for Gardens of Stone:

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a visit by four members of the cross-party Parliamentary Friends of Nature to the proposed 39,000 ha Gardens of Stone addition to the Blue Mountains National Park. Catherine Cusack was the Liberal representative. The area of State Forests is managed by neglect, with the greatest threat underground coal mining causing subsidence and draining of swamps.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/the-new-katoomba-mps-join-push-for-protection-of-lost-city-20210427-p57mw3.html

Fires boost forestry:

While the fires did long-term damage to the pine plantations, there has been a boom as they salvage burnt timber, with almost double normal yields, and they want us to thank them for capitalising on the windfall. Though as the pine bonanza comes to an end they will soon cry poor and seek to ramp up native forest logging.

The NSW South West Slopes forestry region around Tumut and Tumbarumba was hit particularly hard by the bushfires with around 45,000 hectares of softwood plantations (about 40 per cent of the area planted) burnt – creating major salvage challenges for the local forestry and sawmilling industries – to meet the uptick in demand.

Unfortunately, over half the burnt trees in the fires affected region were too young to save, with the salvage focus on getting all the trees older than 19 years and as much as possible of those over 12 years – resulting in harvest running 80 per cent above normal.

All up, around 2.7 million tonnes of timber has been salvaged in the Tumut/Tumbarumba region …

“Our forest industries should be commended for getting the maximum timber supply and regional economic benefit from the blackened timber. It has proven critical to the housing construction market, with soaring timber demand nationwide off the back of the Government’s HomeBuilder stimulus,” Mr Hampton said.

https://ausfpa.com.au/media-releases/sixteen-months-on-from-bushfires-forest-industries-mission-to-use-as-much-burnt-timber-as-possible-for-home-construction-is-coming-to-an-end/?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

Valuing nature:

Sue Arnold provides a variety of economic valuations of natural attributes, though most of them are dated, with more recent studies (such as for the Great Koala National Park, and The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review) omitted.

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-economic-benefit-of-saving-our-environment,15054

We need to give dying trees time to bequeath their wealth before they die:

GPB radio has an interesting half hour conversation (including a transcript) with Suzanne Simard about her studies on the woodwide web and the interactions between trees, as well as mother trees and their offspring and between species, including one species sharing resources with one it is shading. I found the death of trees, and their sharing of resources with their acquaintances intriguing. Her studies are insightful, though they only hint at how forest ecosystems function as a whole.

And, you know, it's not just a matter of saving one old tree. Those old trees, when you - if you clear-cut around and leave one tree, for example, which is the tendency, or to just leave a few seed trees - they're called seed trees - those trees are really vulnerable, left all alone because trees are social creatures. And they depend on each other for protection and all these things I've been talking about.

And so I've been trying to get them to leave old trees in patches so that the neighbors - they can continue to communicate with their neighbors and also that the neighbors can help protect them. And then so the trees will provide seed for natural regeneration and for conserving biodiversity and carbon as well.

And dying is a process, and it takes a long, long time. It can take decades for a tree to die. In the process of dying, there's a lot of things that go on. … And we found that about 40% of the carbon was transmitted through networks into their neighboring trees.

… And so I've been trying to tell people, let - hold back on this salvage logging until trees have had the chance to pass on this energy and information to the new seedlings coming up.

… You know, if a tree is dying, do they send more to their kin? And we found that they do.

https://www.gpb.org/news/shots-health-news/2021/05/05/trees-talk-each-other-mother-tree-ecologist-hears-lessons-for

https://www.mtpr.org/post/trees-talk-each-other-mother-tree-ecologist-hears-lessons-people-too

Canadians increase logging of oldgrowth in response to increasing calls to protect it:

In British Columbia the fight to protect oldgrowth has escalated since a report last year recommended protecting most of what was left. There have been increases in both forest actions and the rate of oldgrowth logging:

It says that since the NDP received a report and recommendations from the Old-Growth Strategic Review Panel last April, there has been an alarming spike in approved logging operations.

The group says it used publicly available data to map out approved old-growth logging sites after communities around the province noticed increased logging activity.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development tells CTV News the province is committed old-growth forests and has taken action by protecting 200,000 hectares in nine areas of the province.

After receiving the report from the Old-Growth Strategic Review Panel last year, the province says it has commissioned an independent panel to advise on how to improve the protection of old-growth forests.

https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/environmental-group-says-old-growth-logging-surging-in-b-c-at-alarming-rate-1.5414411

https://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/news/courtenay-council-calls-on-b-c-to-defer-old-growth-logging/

https://www.castanet.net/news/Vernon/332819/Petition-created-by-Code-Blue-BC-aims-to-stop-logging-by-Tolko-above-Duteau-Creek-watershed

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/old-growth-logging-approvals-nearly-015748362.html

https://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/forest-protesters-add-government-to-civil-action-by-logging-company-1.24314710

https://thetyee.ca/News/2021/05/03/Old-Growth-Forest-Logging-Soaring-BC/

https://wildsight.ca/2021/04/30/lots-of-talk-but-little-action-on-old-growth-protection/

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-fairy-creek-injunction-appeal-1.6008504

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/05/06/news/bc-catches-flak-over-old-growth-logging-approvals

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/altercation-video-loggers-protesters-1.6015920

https://thenarwhal.ca/raush-valley-bc-logging-forest/

https://www.myprincegeorgenow.com/140980/local-537-year-old-douglas-fir-utilized-for-industrial-logging/

Americans fight to stop logging of dead trees:

While in Canada there is a concerted campaign to stop the logging of oldgrowth forest, in Oregon conservationists failed to obtain a court injunction, had an action and will soon hold a rally at the state capitol to "demand an end to the reckless post-fire logging taking place on public lands across the state." There has been a particular focus on the aggressive removal of ‘hazard’ trees along roads:

Reports from Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Oregonian/OregonLive quoted whistleblowers, landowners and others who described a program with "little oversight, unqualified staff, constantly evolving standards for what constitutes a hazard tree, rampant drug use by workers and instances of possible fraud," the Oregonian/OregonLive reported

https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2021/05/05/santiam-state-forest-salvage-logging-lawsuit/4941488001/

https://www.ijpr.org/show/the-jefferson-exchange/2021-05-04/wed-8-am-suit-filed-to-stop-post-fire-logging-in-santiam-state-forest

https://www.klcc.org/post/protestors-decry-post-fire-roadside-logging

Some say the Amazon has turned:

For decades plants and soils have been absorbing around 30 percent of our CO2, even as CO2 continued to rise, with the Amazon a significant contributor, but now that may be coming to an end. Without forests to mop up our mess we are stuffed. If we don’t take action immediately to turn this around we will be stuffed if through clearing, logging and burning our forests become permanent net emitters of carbon as they collapse.

The Brazilian Amazon released nearly 20 percent more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the last decade than it absorbed, according to a stunning report that shows humanity can no longer depend on the world's largest tropical forest to help absorb man-made carbon pollution.   

From 2010 through 2019, Brazil's Amazon basin gave off 16.6 billion tonnes of CO2, while drawing down only 13.9 billion tonnes, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“We half-expected it, but it is the first time that we have figures showing that the Brazilian Amazon has flipped, and is now a net emitter,” said co-author Jean-Pierre Wigneron, a scientist at France’s National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA).

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-05-02/Amazon-forest-emits-more-CO2-than-it-absorbs-study-ZVGWXyKtnG/index.html

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/30/brazilian-amazon-released-more-carbon-than-it-absorbed-over-past-10-years

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/brazil-s-amazon-actually-released-more-carbon-than-it-absorbed-over-the-past-decade-study-finds

We found that the gross forest area loss was larger in 2019 than in 2015, possibly due to recent loosening of forest protection policies. However, the net AGB loss was three times smaller in 2019 than in 2015. During 2010–2019, the Brazilian Amazon had a cumulative gross loss of 4.45 Pg C against a gross gain of 3.78 Pg C, resulting in a net AGB loss of 0.67 Pg C. Forest degradation (73%) contributed three times more to the gross AGB loss than deforestation (27%), given that the areal extent of degradation exceeds that of deforestation. This indicates that forest degradation has become the largest process driving carbon loss and should become a higher policy priority.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-021-01026-5

The world’s forests are supposed to stave off climate change. Left alone, perhaps they could. But they’re not being left alone.

The world’s forests are a key part of the great carbon conundrum: what happens to all the greenhouse gases emitted from power stations, vehicle exhausts and factory chimneys? The assumption is that approaching one third of all the carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the forests, and the conservation of the planet’s forests has become part of the proposed arsenal of global defence against catastrophic climate change.

Researchers have repeatedly confirmed that, undisturbed, the world’s great natural forests are important reservoirs of atmospheric carbon. They have also confirmed that, even without taking carbon sequestration into account, the forests represent precious natural capital: they are worth more to humankind undisturbed than they could ever be as sawn timber or ranchland.

And then there is the direct effect of climate change driven by rising temperatures: with heat comes drought, and the greater risk of fire. Forests that had once been reservoirs of carbon could start to surrender it to accelerate climate change even more. The marvel that is the Amazon rainforest could, one researcher has warned, collapse altogether and change irrevocably in one human lifetime.

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/only-intact-forests-can-stave-off-climate-change/

… as the Amazon converts to savanna:

Droughts and fires are taking their toll on the Amazon’s heart, indicating that concerns about ecosystem collapse are not fanciful:

“The edges of the Amazon Rainforest have long been considered the most vulnerable parts owing to expansion of the agricultural frontier. This degradation of the forest along the so-called ‘deforestation arc’ [a curve that hugs the southeastern edge of the forest] continues to occur and is extremely troubling. However, our study detected the appearance of savannas in the heart of the Amazon a long way away from the agricultural frontier,” Flores told Agência FAPESP.

“We mapped 40 years of forest fires using satellite images, and collected detailed information in the field to see whether the burned forest areas were changing,” Flores said. “When we analyzed tree species richness and soil properties at different times in the past, we found that forest fires had killed practically all trees so that the clayey topsoil could be eroded by annual flooding and become increasingly sandy.”

https://www.eurasiareview.com/05052021-forest-fires-drive-expansion-of-savannas-in-heart-of-amazon/

Amazon now wants to plant trees:

They are beginning to get the idea, but there is still far to go. Companies like Amazon still have this idea they can do it by commercial plantations. There are also concerns that the carbon price is too low and that the net benefits may be marginal if its used to offset other emissions.

* LEAF Coalition rewards nations for lowering deforestation * First round aims for 100 million tonnes of emissions reductions * Purchasing companies must cut own emissions in line with science. Few people, nowadays, would disagree the world's forests need better protection.

Few people, nowadays, would disagree the world's forests need better protection. But many conservation projects that offer carbon credits have an image problem, with critics saying they allow buyers to offset their planet-warming emissions without actually cutting them and have limited climate benefits.

The LEAF Coalition, a new $1-billion forest conservation program backed by the United States, Britain and Norway alongside multinational companies including Amazon, Unilever and Nestle, is hoping it can put the shine back on paying for nature-based emissions reductions. On its Earth Day launch last month, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg emphasized tropical forests are indispensable to fighting climate change and biodiversity loss, "and have received far less attention and finance than they deserve".

Forests can provide over one-fifth of the emissions reductions needed before 2030 to keep planetary heating to relatively safe levels, but efforts to protect them account for less than 3% of climate funding, Bapna noted. Meanwhile, tropical forest loss increased by 12% from 2019 to 2020, releasing emissions equivalent to those of 570 million cars last year alone, WRI-backed research showed in March.

https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/science-environment/1561107-analysis-forest-emission-reductions-get-a-makeover-with-1-billion-in-new-funding

https://nationalpost.com/pmn/environment-pmn/forest-emission-reductions-get-a-makeover-with-1-billion-in-new-funding


Forest Media 30 April 2021

The open letter organised by NCC, and signed by 31 groups, calling on Governments to abandon plans to reboot the Redbank power plant with native forests was published in full in the Newcastle Herald. In southern NSW the pretence that the Eden Woodchip industry is sawlog driven has been shattered with 96% of trees felled turned into woodchips, and 1.5% for firewood. This is what they call waste wood – just what Redbank needs. The NPA are surveying for Koalas and fungi as part of their campaign to expand Barrington Tops National Park to incorporate 9,500 ha of Chichester SF. The NSW Greens are encouraging people to make submissions objecting to weakening of the biodiversity offsets scheme by 3 May, amidst concerns that some consultants may be gaming the system. There are also concerns that ex-Premier Baird may be resurrected as Tony Abbott 2.

Koalas are still a focus, a Strategy is on exhibition for Armidale, Friends of the Koala have a new tree nursery, Southern Cross University wants to be able to release rehabilitated Koalas where they like, locals are objecting to logging of Koala habitat on private property near Bowraville, and in Queensland locals are complaining about Council’s intent to increase allowable dogs on rural properties from 2 to 4 because of the Koala threat.

The Examiner has an in-depth article about Tasmanian logging. Despite their beauty, 26 of Australian butterflies have been identified as on death row, with little being done to save them. Next time you ask “who’s a pretty boy” the answer may surprise you (its not a Cocky).

Two veteran retired American forest professors have spoken out against the folly of salvage logging and logging of older (non-oldgrowth) natural forests. Meanwhile in the Amazon tribal lands that were protected in 2014 are under assault again. Simard who pioneered research into the below-ground interactions and communications between trees via the “woodwide web” wants to find out whether trees can recognise humans, and warns about the intoxicating effects of fungi. No wonder forest bathing is catching on.

Some take hope from the recent setting of emissions targets for 2030, as well as more countries signing onto net zero by 2050, while others are sceptical because America’s policies don’t match their promises, and Europe, Japan and South Korea are pretending to meet theirs by burning forests. While forests are taking up more CO2, their storage is being compromised by logging and burning, meanwhile carbon accounting schemes are gaming the system by inflating forest’s storage. The United Nations continue to promote the necessity of forests to save us. Cities continue to reforest to improve the quality of resident’s lives.   

Dailan Pugh

Redbank Power Station plan to fuel native forests' demise near Singleton

The open letter organised by NCC, and signed by 31 groups, calling on Governments to abandon plans to reboot the Redbank power plant with native forests was published in full in the Newcastle Herald.

We call on the governments of NSW and Australia to reject plans by Verdant Technologies to recommission Redbank Power Station near Singleton and use native forest biomass as fuel.

We urge the NSW and federal governments to reimpose the ban on the burning of residues from native forests for electricity generation on the grounds that this will lead to an intensification of logging, increases in CO2 emissions and the displacement of genuine renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7226747/station-reboot-to-fuel-native-forests-demise-near-singleton/

Waste not want not:

The Government has admitted that during 2020, 96% of trees felled in the NSW region of Eden were turned into woodchips, with 1.5% for firewood. Harriet Swift considers this may be illegal because its contrary to the requirement that “an operation must not be conducted for the primary purpose of producing low quality logs (including salvage and firewood) and pulp logs”.

The core principle of south east NSW’s woodchipping industry is that it only uses “waste” wood – parts of the tree that a sawmill cannot use.

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/logging-eden-nsw-south-coast-forestry-dominated-by-potentially-illegal-wood-chipping/

Expanding Barrington Tops

The National Parks Association have been undertaking Koala, and now fungi surveys, to support their proposal to expand Barrington Tops National Park to incorporate 9,500 ha of Chichester SF:

President of the National Parks Association of NSW (Hunter Branch) Ian Donovan said the association has made a submission to transfer around 9,500 ha of Chichester State Forest to be incorporated in the adjacent world heritage listed Barrington Tops National Park.

He said the national park extension submission was prepared in consultation with community groups in the Dungog and Gresford area, and had received wide support from the community.

https://www.dungogchronicle.com.au/story/7224085/fungi-find-in-chichester-forest/?cs=410

Offsetting Biodiversity Offsets:

The NSW Greens are encouraging people to make submissions objecting to weakening of the biodiversity offsets scheme. You have until 3 May to make a submission.

It will soon become easier for developers to clear threatened species habitat in NSW if changes proposed to the state’s Biodiversity Offsetting Scheme are approved. - This will  mean some of our most treasured native animals such as  the Koala, the Regent Honeyeater, Rock Wallaby, Red Tailed Black Cockatoo, and many more will be one step closer to extinction. 

The idea that critical habitat for our native wildlife could be “offset” is already ridiculous enough, but now they’re trying to make an already dodgy scheme less transparent with less accountability.

What’s more, these changes prioritise development over conservation and create a more permissible environment for financial misconduct at the expense of nature. 

https://agreennsw.good.do/savenativeanimals/submission/

… offsetting is upsetting:

The NSW Opposition has called for an urgent review of the government's environmental offset program and an investigation into Guardian reports that some employees of Eco Logical Australia were part of a consortium that sold more than $100 million worth of BioBanking credits to the state and federal governments, despite the firm also providing offset advice to government agencies.

The price of Cumberland Plains credits has tripled in 18 months, with a single offset credit of shale plains woodlands now priced in excess of $33,000.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-30/nsw-opposition-calls-for-biobanking-offset-review/100107330

Baird’s resurrection feared:

Sue Arnold laments reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison trying to persuade former NSW Premier Mike Baird to contest Tony Abbott’s old seat of Warringah, now held by Independent Zali Steggall, detailing the litany of disastrous environmental decisions resulting from the war against nature he initiated.

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/return-of-mike-baird-to-nsw-politics-would-be-an-environmental-disaster,15017

Concerns about Koalas

Armidale Regional Council's draft Koala Management Strategy is on public exhibition for 28 days, and they are inviting comments. I note that it is not a legal Comprehensive KPoM.

Council's General Manager James Roncon said having a Koala Management Strategy in place is vital to protecting and expanding the population of this iconic native species.

"This project came about due to the fact that the Northern Tablelands has been identified as an important area for the future of koalas," Mr Roncon said.

https://www.armidaleexpress.com.au/story/7230063/a-streamlined-approach-to-koala-conservation-councils-draft-strategy-is-now-on-public-display/

The Sydney Morning Herald has an article about Friends of the Koalas new tree nursery.

With the extra funding they will produce another 240,000 feed and habitat trees over the next three years, and expand the adjoining koala hospital, which already receives up to 400 patients a year.

What is needed to spread these successes is some form of government scheme to encourage and even recompense landowners for preserving the last patches of crucial habitat, Mr Wilson said.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/as-koalas-fight-for-life-in-nsw-volunteers-are-replanting-their-burnt-forests-20210428-p57n73.html

Southern Cross Uni is trying to overturn the restriction on releasing rehabilitated Koalas within a kilometre of where they are found, preferring to be allowed to do so anywhere within a genetically similar population – or maybe elsewhere:

The concept could see koalas relocated close to where they were found - or even across State lines, for instance from NSW to Victoria to boost genetic diversity.

https://www.macleayargus.com.au/story/7229630/get-koalas-on-the-move-if-were-to-save-them/

https://www.miragenews.com/controversial-idea-could-aid-recovery-of-550609/

NBN has a story covering Friends of the Koalas new tree nursery as well as Southern Cross’ proposal to be able to rehouse Koalas somewhere else within the same population as they were found in,

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/04/28/friends-of-the-koalas-bushfire-recovery-nursery-launched/

NBN has a story about conservationists and wildlife carers in the Nambucca Valley concerned about the logging of native forest, including Koala habitat, on private property near Bowraville.

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/04/26/call-to-stop-logging-of-koala-habitat/

In Queensland Redlands Council is proposing increasing the number of dogs allowed on a property over 2000 m2 from 2 to 4, concerning some locals.

"Council, through its Koala Ambulance operation run by volunteers, is well aware of the devastating effects for koalas when multiple dogs are present on a property.

"It is a known fact that, when in numbers, dogs revert to pack behaviour. Records show that slow-moving animals like koalas don't stand a chance," Ms Pointing said.

https://www.theleader.com.au/story/7227659/dog-fight-brewing-over-potential-threat-to-koala-population/?cs=9397

Resetting Tasmanian Forests:

The Examiner has an in depth article about proposed logging of relatively intact wet forests near Derby, explaining the silvicultural options regarding the extent of clearfelling vs retained clumps (this is the model used for our new logging rules) and community feelings about the degradation of what is obviously pretty nice forest next to a popular bike track. 

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7218010/at-what-cost-clearfelling-burning-and-sowing-near-derby/

26 of the Prettiest on Death’s Row:

It is one of the few invertebrates that we can recognise but that is not translating into conservation action:

Our team of 28 scientists identified the top 26 Australian butterfly species and subspecies at greatest risk of extinction. We also estimated the probability that they will be lost within 20-years.

We are now sounding the alarm as most species identified as at risk have little or no management underway to conserve them, and only six of the 26 butterflies identified are currently listed for protection under Australian law.

Our most imperilled butterfly is the Australian fritillary, with a 94% chance of extinction within 20 years. Like many of our butterfly species, a major threat facing the fritillary is habitat loss and habitat change.

The swamps where the fritillary occur have been drained for farming and urbanisation. At remaining swamps, weeds smother the native violets the larvae depend on for food.

It might already be extinct, but as it was once quite widespread at swampy areas along 700 kilometres of coastal Queensland and NSW, we have hope there are still some out there.

By raising awareness of these butterflies and the risks they face, we aim to give governments, conservation groups and the community time to act to prevent their extinctions.

People wanting to learn more about the butterfly species near them can use the free Butterflies Australia app to look up photos and information. You can also be a citizen scientist by recording and uploading sightings on the app.

https://theconversation.com/next-time-you-see-a-butterfly-treasure-the-memory-scientists-raise-alarm-on-these-26-species-159798?utm

Who’s a pretty boy then?:

Believe it or not the Tawny Frogmouth rules them all, obtaining the most “likes” on nine popular avian photography Instagram accounts.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/30/researchers-find-frogmouth-is-worlds-most-instagrammable-bird

Five of our Smallest Mammals:

The Conversation profiles 5 of our smallest carnivores, including the little forest-bat, mountain pygmy possum and Silver-headed antechinus. They are just basic species profiles.

Australia’s small mammals face a host of human-caused threats. These include habitat clearing, climate change and feral predators. …The combined pressures have too often proven insurmountable. With 34 species lost forever, Australia has the worst modern-day mammal extinction record of any country on Earth.

https://theconversation.com/meet-5-of-australias-tiniest-mammals-who-tread-a-tightrope-between-life-and-death-every-night-159239?utm

American stalwarts condemn salvage logging:

The Statesman Journal has an opinion article by retired forestry professors Jerry F. Franklin and K. Norman Johnson about the evils of salvage logging in burnt American forests:

Salvage logging profoundly interferes with the natural recovery process in two ways:  

First, logging and road-building disturb the soil and damage the initial flush of plant regrowth in the forest, increasing the potential for soil and nutrient losses and adversely affecting water quality.

Second, salvage logging removes the wildfire’s legacy of standing dead and down wood, which is fundamental to the recovery of the forest’s functional capabilities.

In the wake of the 2020 wildfires, the best approach to ecological recovery is, literally, to let nature take its course.

https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/2021/04/23/guest-opinion-salvage-logging-wildfires-secondary-growth-forests/7289895002/

… and they are also targeting logging of older forests:

Almost 20 years ago, the U.S. Forest Service essentially stopped logging older primeval forests on national forests in Western Oregon and Washington. Its harvests were halted by protests, legal challenges, species impacts and broadening social realizations of the ecological and wildlife benefits of such forests.

Once again, however, the Forest Service plans extensive logging of older natural forests. … However, primeval older forests are now grossly underrepresented in Oregon’s forested landscapes, and they provide important ecological services and have high social value. They should be permanently protected.

https://www.registerguard.com/story/opinion/columns/2021/04/27/guest-view-protect-older-natural-forests-western-cascades-jerry-franklin-norm-johnson/7385736002/

https://www.opb.org/article/2021/04/29/northwest-forest-plan-ecosystems-protection/

Resetting the Amazon’s Forests:

The BBC’s Justin Rowlatt chronicles his experience with Brazil’s Awa, from the heady days in 2014 when the army bulldozed the last of the illegal settlements on the Awa lands, to the reign of President Bolsonaro that has seen clearing rebound to the highest levels since 2008.

I was desperate to know how the Awa were getting on. After much phoning around we managed to get a message through to them.

It seemed like an eternity before we finally got a reply in January. It was a recorded message from Pirai.

"Loggers, farmers, hunters, invaders...they are all coming back," Pirai continued. "They are killing all our forest."

https://au.news.yahoo.com/killing-forest-brazilian-tribe-warns-234139836.html

Tree feelings:

The Guardian has an interview with Suzanne Simard about her and her new book, Finding the Mother Tree. She is the one who pioneered research into the below-ground interactions and communications between trees via the “woodwide web”. This book seems primarily an autobiography.

One of Simard’s most thrilling beliefs is that trees can recognise us. “Trees perceive many things. … Trees don’t have a brain, but the network in the soil is a neural network and the chemicals that move through it are the same as our neural transmitters.” She is currently collaborating on research to see whether trees can distinguish us as humans.

“One thing people don’t realise is, when you’re walking in the forest, there is a whole city underfoot that includes myriad organisms, including actinomycetes [bacteria] that excrete chemicals that can make us a bit high – there’s an aphrodisiac thing going on.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/24/suzanne-simard-finding-the-mother-tree-woodwide-web-book-interview

Forest Bathing:

Mental Health Today extols the virtues of forest bathing, noting:

Shelby Deering, writing for Healthline on her experience of a guided forest bathing session that she believed for years that simply going to wooded areas, for a run or a hike would give her the same benefits, but that having experienced a real forest bathing session “now I know the difference”.

Upon being “invited” to notice by her guide, Kate Bast, Deering was astounded at how much she would miss during her runs, “the spider spinning a sunlight-soaked web. The dew on the flowers. How the smells change as I move…from wet and earthy to fresh and floral.”

Gary Evans, who set up the UK’s Forest Bathing Institute in 2018 speaks on the same experience: “People initially think they’ve been doing this all their lives: going for a walk in the woods” but he notes people are often distracted.

https://www.mentalhealthtoday.co.uk/blog/awareness/forest-bathing-how-returning-to-the-trees-can-decrease-symptoms-of-anxiety

Enter the Group Forest Bathing Togetherness Day. Yes, a chance to strip off and share the wonders of nature with your colleagues in various forest locations.

And if that doesn’t ring your bell, how about signing up the team up to The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild which requires participants to perform a ‘random act of wildness’ every day for 30 days during June?

https://employeebenefits.co.uk/forest-bathing-boost-team-engagement/

A political tipping point?

As identified in the Conservation the recent setting of emissions targets for 2030, as well as more countries signing onto net zero by 2050, has given some researchers hope that we may have passed a political tipping point:

It seems we’re heading for an “overshoot” scenario, where the global temperature rise will exceed 1.5℃, before we pull the temperature back down over decades with negative emissions. Investment in such technology initiatives as direct air carbon dioxide capture, must be massively scaled up. Nature-based solutions such as reafforestation and restoration of carbon sequestering ecosystems, on land and in the water, will also be crucial.

Above all, we need to act fast. The 2020s really are our final chance: our “Earthshot” moment to start to repair the planet after decades of inaction.

https://theconversation.com/more-reasons-for-optimism-on-climate-change-than-weve-seen-for-decades-2-climate-experts-explain-159233?utm

… not all are convinced:

  • As the U.S. promised to halve its emissions by 2030, advocates noted the lack of policies in place to achieve that goal, and the likelihood of intense Republican political resistance. China promised at the summit to eliminate coal plants, but 247 gigawatts of coal power is currently in planning or development stages there.
  • The UK, EU, Japan, and South Korea all pledged to do more, but all are committed to burning forest biomass to replace coal — a solution relying on a longstanding carbon accounting error that counts forest biomass as carbon neutral, though scientists say it produces more emissions than coal per unit of electricity made.

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/04/leaders-make-bold-climate-pledges-but-is-it-all-just-smoke-and-mirrors-critics/?utm

Forests ability to save us is being compromised:

Given that forests take up about a third of our annual carbon emissions, our ability to reign in climate heating depends upon maintaining and enhancing this ability. Thankfully many forests (those not succumbing to droughts) are responding positively to the fertiliser affect of increasing CO2, though this is being offset by increasing fires and logging.

New research indicates that the computer-based models currently used to simulate how Earth’s climate will change in the future underestimate the impact that forest fires and drying climate are having on the world’s northernmost forests, which make up the largest forest biome on the planet.

“Fires are intensifying, and when forests burn, carbon is released into the atmosphere,” says Boston University environmental earth scientist Mark Friedl, senior author on the study published in Nature Climate Change. “But we’re also seeing longer growing seasons, warmer temperatures, which draws carbon out of the atmosphere [and into plants]. More CO2 in the atmosphere acts as a fertilizer, increasing growth of trees and plants—so, scientifically, there’s been this big question out there: What is happening on a global scale to Earth’s forests? Will they continue to absorb as much carbon as they do now?”

The new study, however, reveals that scientists have so far been underestimating the impact that fires and other disturbances—like timber harvests—are having on Earth’s northern forests and, at the same time, have been overestimating the growth-enhancing effect of climate warming and rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

“It is not enough for a forest to absorb and store carbon in its wood and soils. For that to be a real benefit, the forest has to remain intact—an increasing challenge in a warming, more fire-prone climate,” says Jonathan Wang,

…. the biomass in Earth’s northern forests has changed over time—revealing that the forests have been losing more biomass than expected due to increasingly frequent and extensive forest fires.

https://www.bu.edu/articles/2021/northern-forest-fires-could-accelerate-climate-change/?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

https://phys.org/news/2021-04-northern-forest-climate.html

Here we combined multiple satellite datasets to estimate annual stocks and changes in aboveground biomass (AGB) across boreal northwestern North America. From 1984 to 2014, the 2.82 × 106 km2 study region gained 434 ± 176 Tg of AGB. Fires resulted in losses of 789 ± 48 Tg, which were mostly compensated by post-fire recovery of 642 ± 86 Tg. Timber harvests contributed to losses of 74 ± 5 Tg, which were partly offset by post-harvest recovery of 32 ± 9 Tg. Earth system models overestimated AGB accumulation by a factor of 3 (+1,519 ± 171 Tg), which suggests that these models overestimate the terrestrial carbon sink in boreal ecosystems and highlights the need to improve representation of fire and other disturbance processes in these models.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-021-01027-4

… and people are inflating forests values to avoid accountability:

Pro Publica reports on a review that shows California’s climate policy created up to 39 million carbon credits that aren’t achieving real carbon savings. The baseline is calculated by averaging out carbon storage across large areas of forests and credits are earned by reducing logging or thinning out smaller trees and brush to allow for increased overall growth. The credits are then sold to major polluters to offset their pollution.

But the averages are determined from such large areas and such diverse forest types that they can differ dramatically from the carbon stored on lands selected for projects.

Project forests that significantly exceed these averages are frequently earning far more credits than the actual carbon benefits they deliver, CarbonPlan found.

https://www.propublica.org/article/the-climate-solution-actually-adding-millions-of-tons-of-co2-into-the-atmosphere

And an article in Climate Change identifies that some countries have been over-stating the carbon storage in their forests (largely by not accounting for degradation) to claim they are meeting their emission reduction targets:

Mitigation pathways by Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) describe future emissions that keep global warming below specific temperature limits and are compared with countries’ collective greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction pledges. This is needed to assess mitigation progress and inform emission targets under the Paris Agreement. Currently, however, a mismatch of ~5.5 GtCO2 yr−1 exists between the global land-use fluxes estimated with IAMs and from countries’ GHG inventories. Here we present a ‘Rosetta stone’ adjustment to translate IAMs’ land-use mitigation pathways to estimates more comparable with GHG inventories. This does not change the original decarbonization pathways, but reallocates part of the land sink to be consistent with GHG inventories. Adjusted cumulative emissions over the period until net zero for 1.5 or 2 °C limits are reduced by 120–192 GtCO2 relative to the original IAM pathways. These differences should be taken into account to ensure an accurate assessment of progress towards the Paris Agreement.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-021-01033-6.epdf?sharing_token=ljEqNEqSwLDXNsE7CzXfTNRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0NUC_CmvBv2UT_BlmiQ-W113Wj4pOkPwEsR3RbIl2Wy8zKlRGFiTQwbOakmI4yqOayTdfJy5bjfo4LV-A7ZPU8lzK6hvRd8M-XE_mz02LNNxKTW-uKxSDlcZwhycN1tbyfRRhsotLq37tV3kuSxA-KVRZx3Fd4mwDDFb5KXooiccyCAiMAyCajqgSU1YUmh7qE%3D&tracking_referrer=www.theverge.com

https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/29/22410367/forest-offsets-trees-carbon-dioxide-accounting

The United Nations Wades in on Forests Again:

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said we were at a “make-or-break moment”, adding that woodlands provide vital functions, including as guardians of fresh water sources and biodiversity protection. 

“Forests are at the core of the solutions that can help us make peace with nature”, she underscored, stressing that "we need all-hands-on-deck" to support of forests worldwide. 

Moreover, failure to protect them would have a major, negative impact on damaging and rising carbon emissions. 

In his video message, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), called healthy forests the key to “building back better”.

As they provide energy, food security and income while also storing carbon and housing most of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, he said that "forests offer hope to heal people, environment and economy". 

"Our generation must be the one that halts deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change...and achieve better nutrition, better production, a better environment and a better life", the FAO chief said.

The event also launched the Global Forest Goals Report 2021, which evaluates where the world stands in implementing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030

While the world had been making progress in key areas, such as increasing global forest area through afforestation and restoration, findings reveal that the worsening state of our natural environment is threatening these and other gains.  

“Before the pandemic, many countries were working hard to reverse native forest loss and increase protected areas designated for biodiversity conservation”, wrote Secretary-General António Guterres in the report’s foreword.  

“Some of those gains are now at risk with worrying trends of increased deforestation of primary tropical forests.”

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/04/1090622

Another City seeks to restore tree cover:

The City of Cambridge is launching the Healthy Forest Healthy City Initiative to help reshape its relationship with Cambridge’s urban forest and to provide opportunities for the Cambridge community to play a role in keeping the urban forest healthy and strong—and enjoy its many benefits. A healthy forest is a vital part of a healthy city and we all share a responsibility to care for our urban forest. 

The Healthy Forest, Healthy City Initiative sets the groundwork necessary to: 

  • Increase awareness of the benefits of the urban forest and engages community members to take action;
  • Achieve a minimum of 25% canopy cover by neighborhood and 60% canopy cover over sidewalks;
  • Grow and nurture a more diverse urban forest to be 30% canopy cover citywide;
  • Increase canopy cover on land owned by the city, individuals, businesses, and institutions by up to 25% by 2050.

The Healthy Forest Healthy City initiative came out of the development of the City of Cambridge’s Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP) a strategic plan to evaluate the urban forest canopy and its resilience to climate change and its ability to reduce the urban heat island effect, mitigate stormwater runoff, and contribute to community well-being. 

https://www.cambridgema.gov/Departments/publicworks/news/2021/04/arborweek2021


Forest Media 23 April 2021

The newly created Camp Nunguu in Newry State Forest had more publicity, and it is doing well. A once thriving koala population in the Eurobodalla Shire on the NSW South Coast is on its last legs, though locals hope a new strategy will save them. Researchers hope that peptides in Koala’s pouches may hold the cure to their chlamydia, and could be used to fight our own infections. People continue to hold the Nationals to account over their continuing attempts to remove protection for Koalas. The Government’s deal to buy out the China Shenhua Energy Company promises acquisition of more than 6000 hectares though it is worrying that this is to be managed by Local Land Services rather than NPWS. Forestry are also using our taxes to fund giving seedlings to community groups for planting, giving them a PR opportunity as they continue to fell their mature feed trees.

VicForests have been accused of 160 breaches of rules limiting logging to less than 30o slopes in Melbourne’s drinking water catchments, though only 2 are admitted. In Tasmania The Greens are going to the election promising to end native forest logging and establish Carbon Capture and Conservation reserves. And at the federal level the Nationals have introduced their own bill aimed at stopping federal oversight of logging.

It sounds like noise can affect the species and structure of native vegetation by affecting fauna. The Climate Council released a new report warning the world will likely pass the critical 1.5℃ temperature rise threshold in the 2030’s, warning that Australia should aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2035 as 2050 is too late. While America has now committed to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030, Australia refuses to set goals, though is on track to a 22% reduction. Though whereas once upon a time cuts used to be relative to 1990 they have been steadily creeping up, along with emissions, with a 2005 baseline now.

You can look at examples of Sweden’s clearfelling regimes, and sign a petition calling for protection of at least 50% of our lands and oceans.

Dailan Pugh

Camp Nunguu in place:

News of the Area reports that Gumbaynggirr elders have set up ‘Camp Nunguu’ in the Newry State Forest in response to Forestry Corporation of NSW plans to log 657 hectares, with more than 200 concerned citizens attending the opening of the blockade on Saturday April 10.

Traditional owner and Gumbaynggirr elder, Uncle Miklo Jarrett, officially opened the camp with family members.

“There is a lot of harmony and good feelings about being in the forest,” he said.

“We have looked after the land for thousands of years and to see the forests and animals disappearing is very upsetting.

“It is now up to everyone to protect the land,” he said.

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/gumbaynggirr-elders-set-up-camp-to-protest-logging-plans-68003

Disappearing Koalas:

About Regional reports that “a once thriving koala population in the Eurobodalla Shire on the NSW South Coast is now so small that sightings are only reported about once every five years”, so the Eurobodalla Koala Project has prepared a Recovery Strategy “sponsored by the Coastwatchers Association, with light support from the Commonwealth Government, Forestry Corporation of NSW – Southern Region and National Parks and Wildlife Service South Coast Branch” – I’m not sure what “light” support is.

The Draft Revised Eurobodalla Koala Recovery Strategy 2021 is currently open for consultation and can be read here.

https://aboutregional.com.au/alarming-drop-in-eurobodalla-koala-numbers-prompts-call-for-action/

For Koalas with chlamydia, cure could be inside their pouches:

Koala peptides may hold the cure to their chlamydia, and may also be useful in fighting our own bacteria and fungus infections – if only some are left.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/koalas-with-chlamydia-cure-could-be-inside-pouches/13303560

Maintaining the rage:

In Stokes own electorate the Pittwater Online News has a detailed article about Koalas, written by the local Greens, and calling for people to lobby the Minister.

However, Ms Faerhmann said that even while the report was being handed down in June 2020, the timber industry and particularly Boral, was lobbying the National Party to block the new restrictions on logging koala habitat.

“Basically, I saw a lot of lobbying by timber companies in emails, also some legal advice by timber NSW,” she said. 

It was then, in September 2020, that NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro “went ballistic” – saying his party would no longer support Government legislation in Parliament or join party room meetings in opposition to the new rules.

By March this year, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Environment Minister Matt Kean had caved in to the Nationals and the timber companies, exempting private rural land zoned for farming or forestry from the new SEPP. 

http://www.pittwateronlinenews.com/Pittwater-Action-to-Save-Koalas-How-You-Can-Help.php

Geoff Pratt’s letter to News of the Area maintains the rage:

At the announcement the National ‘s member for Coffs Harbour, Mr Gurmesh Singh, declared that, “Buying this land is an important step in conserving our native flora and fauna in the local area.”

Just wondering, would this be Mr Singh whose political party last year began eroding the NSW Government’s plan and regulations meant to ensure the proper preservation and protection of koala habitats?

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/opinion-the-reality-of-the-national-partys-moves-against-preserving-koala-habitat-68358

As does Maria Paola Torti, all the way from Italy:

This policy has to be changed!

We across the whole world love your iconic koalas! When the pandemic is over thousands and thousands of tourists from all over the world will come to Australia bringing much money to see your iconic koalas in the wild.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/04/death-for-koalas/

Liverpool farmers and koalas get a reprieve:

There was immense relief when landholders and activists found out that the Government had done a a $100 million deal with the China Shenhua Energy Company Limited to withdraw its mining lease application and surrender its development consent for the Shenhua Watermark Coal project at Breeza on the Liverpool Plains. The deal includes the acquisition of more than 6000 hectares of high biodiversity land to protect habitat for koalas and other endangered species, though it is worrying that this is to be managed by Local Land Services rather than NPWS (the National’s own conservation agency?).

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/04/shenhua-gone-and-breeza-breathes-again/

Your taxes at work:

The Forestry Corporation is providing thousands of trees to Koala groups in a PR blitz (likely paid for by Government Community Service Obligations subsidies). As they cut down mature Koala feed trees they claim kudos for giving out seedlings to plant.

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/7219387/seedling-donations-support-port-macquarie-koala-hospital-tree-giveaway/

Victorians caught out again logging on excessively steep slopes in water catchments:

The ABC reports on assessments by Lindenmayer and Taylor that found VicForests had committed 160 breaches of rules limiting logging to less than 30o slopes in Melbourne’s drinking water catchments, though only 2 are admitted. They report logging on slopes extending to over 40 degrees, with their findings published.

According to Professor Jamie Pittock, an expert in water management from ANU — who was not involved in the report — soil washed into the water can increase the chance of dangerous algal blooms and increase the cost of filtration. 

"Soil tends to contain things like nitrates and phosphates and, if that gets into drinking water sources in dams, that exacerbates things like algal blooms," Professor Pittock said. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-20/vicforests-illegally-logging-in-water-catchments/100079514

The Greens want to end logging of native forests:

The Greens new forest policy would end native logging in Tasmania's forests, and Forestry Tasmania would be repurposed to make the state a world leader in biodiversity protection and carbon storage.

Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said … "We will reclassify the Permanent Timber Production Zone (PTPZ) forests as Carbon Capture and Conservation reserves. And we'll work to monetise the carbon stored in these forests to provide an income, instead of a loss, to the State Budget."

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7217718/carbon-storage-key-in-greens-forest-policy/

Tasmanian loggers see the light?

Nick Steel Tasmanian Forest Products Association head grudgingly admits that value adding and sustainable forests are the future for Tasmania as greenies in Tasmania argued for nearly 50 years. The only problem now is finding enough private land to grow forests that can meet a spike in demand.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/hobart/programs/breakfast/nick-steel-tasmanian-forest-products-assoc/13309702

The Nationals are intent on removing federal protections to appease loggers, as well as state ones:

The Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie has introduced a private members bill to make native forest logging across the country exempt from national environmental protections. The Sydney Morning Herald  reports the loggers and CFMEU support the bill, though federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley opposes it.

The federal Environment Department’s submission to Senator McKenzie’s bill said the bill would “remove the Australian government’s regulatory environmental protections, such as penalties and other remedies”.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/nationals-senator-s-logging-bill-chops-down-environment-minister-s-powers-20210419-p57kgh.html

Noise affects plant communities:

An American study of vegetation plots near noisy gas wells compared to quite sites found significant differences in seedling abundances and plant species composition which they attributed to likely changes in pollination and dispersal of seeds by fauna,

The findings suggest noise pollution is more than a mere nuisance, according to the researchers -- it could be a serious threat with the power to transform ecosystems. The study was published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/noise-pollution-prevent-forest-growth-study/story?id=77125576

We are fast running out of time to save our future:

The Climate Council report Aim High: Go Fast: Why Emissions Need To Plummet This Decade identifies that because we have squandered our opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions it will be virtually impossible to keep average global temperature rise to 1.5℃ or below this century, without a period of significant overshoot and “drawdown”. A concern that I have is that the Climate Council doesn’t recognise the importance of protecting forests to achieve the drawdown.

It is now virtually certain Earth will pass the critical 1.5℃ temperature rise this century – most likely in the 2030s. Now, without delay, humanity must focus on holding warming to well below 2℃. For Australia, that means tripling its emissions reduction goal this decade to 75%.

And perhaps most frighteningly, overshooting 1.5℃ runs a greater risk of crossing “tipping points”, such as the collapse of ice sheets and the release of natural carbon stores in forests and permafrost. Crossing those thresholds may set off irreversible changes to the global climate system, and destroy critical ecosystems on which life on Earth depends.

Australia should also aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2035. Doing so by 2050 – a goal Prime Minister Scott Morrison says is his preference – is too late.

https://theconversation.com/failure-is-not-an-option-after-a-lost-decade-on-climate-action-the-2020s-offer-one-last-chance-158913?utm

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/net-zero-emissions-plummet-decade/

The Australian Model:

With the United States now promising to halve its CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and Canada committed to a 40-45% cut on 2005 levels by 2030, the Australia COALition is missing in action yet again. Unfortunately, the ALP opposition mouth platitudes but aren’t opposing anything. Reuters comments:

Australia is the highest per capita carbon emitter among the world's richest nations, yet Prime Minister Scott Morrison made no pledge at the summit on Thursday to hit net zero by 2050.

Nor did Morrison proffer any change to Australia's commitment under the Paris Agreement to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2030, although speaking to media on Friday he left the door open to a new target.

However based on the government's own projections released in December, Australia's emissions in 2030 would be 22% below 2005 levels on its current trajectory, well short of its Paris commitment.

"When the PM says we can rely on him to meet Australia's targets – which are among the weakest climate targets in the developed world – it's like a naughty schoolboy saying you can rely on him to not do his homework and get a D in maths," Australian Conservation Foundation Chief Executive Kelly O'Shanassy said.

https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/industry-green-groups-push-australia-action-after-it-fails-adopt-new-emission-2021-04-23/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/23/scott-morrison-claims-future-generations-will-thank-us-despite-no-new-emissions-pledge

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/23/australia-has-been-talking-up-its-climate-credentials-but-do-the-claims-stack-up

https://www.watoday.com.au/environment/climate-change/australia-left-behind-as-global-climate-action-gathers-pace-20210423-p57lxh.html

The Swedish Model:

If you had some inkling that Sweden has got its act together over forests, you were wrong as this photo essay demonstrates.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2021/apr/16/forests-felling-swedens-ancient-trees-biodiversity-sami-environment

While you are looking at Swedish forestry you are encouraged to sign the petition calling on world leaders to support a Global Deal for Nature that safeguards the Earth, protecting at least 50% of our lands and oceans

https://www.globaldealfornature.org/petition/en/


Forest Media 16 April 2021

An announcement on the evening TV news that the Forestry Corporation had pulled out of Newry SF turned out to be wishful thinking. Koalas remain under sustained attack by politicians, bureaucrats and developers. Bit by bit we eat away their homes. Government and Campbelltown Council trial a sprinkler system in flying fox colony to counter devastating effects of increasing heatwaves.

In keeping with his industry bias, the federal ALP’s ex-forestry shadow forestry minister has given his fulsome support for Hunter Energy’s biomass plant at Redbank. An attack by two timber advocates on the credibility of Professor Lindenmayer, regarding his research finding that logging increased fire intensities, backfired when he sued them. A Western Australian hazard reduction backfired when it maimed native wildlife and habitat. WWF have identified six priority landscapes, covering nearly 5.8 million hectares on the east coast, and are working with EDO to secure stronger legal protection for these areas to defend the Unburnt Six and the wildlife that calls them home.

The Government has made a small addition to Billinudgel Nature Reserve and are considering a request by Hills Shire Council to make Cumberland State Forest into a national park. The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife has launched a Wildlife Heroes Wildlife Friendly Vets program to highlight and support their wildlife work. Meanwhile a person establishing hollows to encourage the recovery of feral European honeybees in native bush gets promoted.

The important roles of mangroves and wetlands in sequestering “blue carbon” is recognised, while research finds that bacteria living on paperbarks can reduce wetland emissions by converting methane to the less dangerous carbon dioxide. Rich countries pay poor countries to protect rainforests, yet their consumption pays to clear it - with each person in a G7 country driving an average loss of four trees in the world. Apple is intending to use trees to offset their carbon footprint, though they want to log them too. And Whitehaven Coal want to plant used tyres under their rehabilitation of Leard State Forest.  

An assessment identifies the immense environmental and economic costs of our transport of species around the world. Though the depressing news is that despite the depression there has been no depression in CO2 emissions, with the global rate of increase the fifth-highest level since records commenced, reaching levels higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years.

Dailan Pugh

Good news was wishful thinking:

Gumbaynggirr elders and supporters gathered to speak up against logging in Newry State Forest, only to be told that forestry announced that they are no longer going to proceed with logging. This is how TV reported it, though after the media left it was revealed it was a case of wishful thinking, and the campaign is still ongoing as the Forestry Corporation haven’t caved in yet.

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/04/10/logging-to-stop-in-newry-state-forest/

Koalas under concerted attack:

The Sydney Morning Herald considers the NSW government is undermining a key platform of its koala protection policy by removing financial incentives for conservation on private properties as part of a bill to help harmonise council rates. It states:

Greens MLC David Shoebridge said there needed to be a long-term solution that protected environmental land from rates but also gave councils an economic lifeline, adding the current proposal “does not strike that balance”.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/disincentive-state-sabotages-koala-protection-with-rates-bill-20210407-p57h84.html

In Independent Australia Sue Arnold again attack the NSW Government over their Koala policies, noting:

The Koala SEPP 21 has outraged conservation organisations. It does not apply to rural and forestry zones which comprise 90 per cent of private forests in northeast NSW. Further, a new provision allows the secretary of the department of regional NSW (National Party leader Barilaro’s bailiwick) to have a concurrent role in any future koala plans of management.   

Stokes further asserts that the new SEPP has already enabled a plan to better protect koalas in Campbelltown. This is a statement that is guaranteed to disgust local conservation organisations fighting massive urbanisation by LendLease, the Walker Corporation and the Greater MacArthur Project — projects destined to eradicate the last healthy surviving koala population in not only southwest Sydney but potentially the state. Projects all approved by Stokes.

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/berejiklian-governments-latest-koala-plan-out-of-touch-with-reality,14966

Environmental assessment reports warn of dire consequences for koalas if a dam is built in the lower Hunter region.

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7201086/new-dam-would-leave-koalas-homeless/?src=rss

The Queensland government is considering approving a 585-kilometre gas pipeline from west of Aramac in central-west Queensland to Injune in the state's south-west, involving clearing up to 134.54 hectares of koala habitat. The ABC notes the federal Department of Environment found that the proposed pipeline would significantly impact two endangered and 15 vulnerable species, including:

"There is a real chance or possibility that the proposed action will adversely affect habitat critical to the survival of the koala,"

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-08/qld-government-jemena-gas-pipeline-vulnerable-koala/100027578

At Toondah Harbour in Queensland the plan is for up to 3,600 apartments to be built over the water, alongside redeveloped parkland, a ferry terminal, and a 200-berth marina all in a RAMSAR listed wetland. The ABC reports that as well as objecting to the impacts on migratory shorebirds, the locals have been doing their own assessments of Koalas:

"We had eight individuals in the tracking project plus there were many others that we would see when we were tracking in the field, that were moving in and out of the area."

Walker Corporation declined to comment, but has previously told the ABC the EIS would demonstrate that all significant impacts on the natural environment would be avoided, minimised or offset and the project design would be informed by that work.

Ms Pointing disagreed the impact on koalas could be minimised.

"To be blunt, it's a death sentence," Ms Pointing said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-08/qld-development-law-toondah-harbour-redlands-brisbane/100016842

Reducing the heat on Flying foxes:

The NSW Government’s Saving our Species (SoS) program is pioneering a research partnership to test if water sprinklers can reduce the effects of heat stress on flying-foxes.

“During the 2019–20 summer over 72,000 grey-headed flying-foxes are estimated to have died in extreme heat events and sadly this is part of an escalating trend for this threatened species,” said Manager Threatened Species Conservation Linda Bell. 

“Flying-foxes feed on nectar and pollen and travel vast distances and are also able to disperse larger seeds. This makes them vital to the health and regeneration of our native forests, especially the hardwood forests our timber industry depends on. 

“This ground-breaking research project will determine whether sprinklers can reduce temperature-related deaths in flying-fox camps and, if so, how they can be configured to provide the best possible result for this threatened species,” Ms Bell said. 

For more information on flying-fox heat stress go to: Heat stress in flying-fox camps.

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/news/flying-fox-heat-stress-targeted-in-world-first?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

https://www.macarthuradvertiser.com.au/story/7210634/researchers-testing-cooling-method-to-prevent-bat-deaths-in-campbelltown/

ALP’s Fitzgibbon backs Hunter Energy biomass:

The Land reports that the ALP MP for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon, has given his fulsome support for Hunter Energy’s biomass plant at Redbank.

"This would bring multiple jobs related to the logistics and transport of about a million tonnes a year of waste wood biomass that would provide the feedstock for this baseload power station.

"The project has my wholehearted support and I wish it well," [Fitzgibbon] said.

"We are working with the government to deliver on the twin goals of 24/7 reliable baseload power and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by focusing on biomass for energy solutions," Mr Poole said.

He said there was a place for controlled burns and mechanical thinning ... "but something less talked about could be the key to restoring healthy, fire-resistant forests - biomass.

Biomass focused on removing small trees and underbrush from the forest and burning it for power electricity. Any fears by industry detractors that biomass would draw on mature forests should be dismissed because biomass plants can only process trees of no more than 30 cm.

"You do it for jobs, yes, but you do it for cleaner air, the ecosystem, and climate change benefits," he said.

https://www.theland.com.au/story/7206533/biomass-power-for-the-hunter-seen-as-positive-step-to-tackle-climate-change/

The Redbank Action Group issued a PR in response:

Joel Fitzgibbon’s claim that burning over a million tonnes of NSW’s native forests in the Hunter to generate electricity will benefit air, ecosystems and mitigate climate change is greenwashing in its purest form, the Redbank Action Group (RAG) said today.

“This is our valley’s transition nightmare,” said RAG spokesperson David Burgess. “At a time when the best minds in the Hunter are coming together to negotiate a difficult path beyond coal, the last thing we need is a Trojan horse of fake forest logging jobs masquerading as green energy.”

“There is no way any maths in the world adds up to this being renewable. On the face of it, and in the wake of enormous pressure on the EU and the USA to cease and desist, Hunter Energy seems to be claiming that it has purchased a sawmill in Millfield and turned it into a woodchip mill bigger than Eden,” Mr Burgess said.

“A double-handling of truck movements and the burning of so-called ‘residue’ or 'forest waste' at Redbank is a method that’s more polluting than coal. This is a fire with an insatiable appetite. While they’re chasing would-be investors around the world, Mr Fitzgibbon and the mill in question should look at what the first word on their brand new website, ‘legacy’, means. The volumes of forest they are claiming will require the burning of whole trees from public and private tenure and massive taxpayer subsidies. This, by their own description of the project, is the industrial-scale logging of the Watagans, west to the Pilliga and anywhere up to Grafton and down to Ulladulla.”

Attack on Lindenmayer backfires:

Lindenmayer sued two timber advocates after they attacked his credibility in relation to his comments about logging increasing the flammability of forests. They were forced to print retractions.

Mr Law and Mr Leplaa were required to publish apologies. Mr Law wrote that he accepted his statements could be interpreted as meaning Professor Lindenmayer’s opinion did not deserve to be considered.

“While my own views and that of some forestry scientists are diametrically opposed to the views expressed by Professor Lindenmayer in acknowledged scientific publications, my comments impugned his personal and professional integrity,” he wrote.

In his apology, Mr Leplaa acknowledged he had made statements about Professor Lindenmayer that were personally offensive to him and stepped beyond what was legitimate debate on a matter of important public policy in terms of forestry management.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/timber-industry-advocates-forced-to-apologise-to-high-profile-scientist-20210414-p57j0l.html

As WA hazard reduction backfires:

Horrific injuries to 7 Kangaroos from a hazard reduction burn in a nature reserve at Perup, 300km south of Perth have contributed to an outcry.

Mr Smart said he is also concerned that countless old-growth trees with hollows were destroyed in the fires and endangered numbat habitat, which was taped off by authorities, was also left scorched by the blaze.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/catastrophic-hazard-reduction-burn-review-after-wildlife-deaths-104958773.html

WWF Defending the Unburnt:

WWF have released a report ‘Defending the Unburnt’ that identifies six priority landscapes, covering nearly 5.8 million hectares on the east coast:  Border Ranges, Nymboida, North Coast, Yengo-Wollemi, South Coast and Gippsland-Eden.

Criteria used to identify priority regions were habitat for the priority bush-fire affected species identified by the federal government, WWFs priority areas map for reserving 17% of the landscape (Aichi target) and expert opinion. Within regions they selected a 25 km buffer around burned areas 2ha+ in size.  Within these areas action priorities appear to have been largely based on broad mapping of vegetation and condition, with cleared land identified as the highest priority. They multiplied asset and action priorities together to provide a final priority map. I am sceptical about their criteria and methodology (the delineation of regions is of concern, though its particularly perplexing how cleared land could become the highest and most urgent action priority).

https://www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/2-billion-trees/defending-the-unburnt-six#gs.ywgmtk

… the 6 have been used as a focus to secure stronger legal protection

The Guardian reports that WWF Australia is setting up a legal fund through the EDO for community groups to challenge development decisions in forests they say are under threat from land clearing in the aftermath of the 2019-20 bushfire disaster.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/15/wwf-australia-creates-legal-fund-to-fight-projects-threatening-forests-after-black-summer-bushfires

The EDO state:

Our team of environmental law experts will work with WWF, local communities, and decision-makers across the country to secure stronger legal protection for these areas to defend the Unburnt Six and the wildlife that calls them home.

Rather than focussing on litigation, this landmark initiative will push for greater legal protection for the Unburnt Six by advocating for stronger laws, policies and processes that properly take into account the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires.

Find out more about how you can help Defend the Unburnt Six on WWF’s project page.

https://www.edo.org.au/2021/04/15/defending-the-unburnt-a-landmark-legal-initiative/

As well as reviewing the use of existing wildlife protections, the initiative will examine how to improve and create new laws to ensure Australia’s flora and fauna can survive into the future.

The partnership aims to support community groups including First Nations people, to know their rights when it comes to protecting their land.

Of particular focus are logging coups within state forests, many of which border national parks and while they harbour the same species, they are subject to weaker protections.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/bold-plan-to-save-six-wildlife-arks-across-australia-090539250.html

Small addition to Billinudgel Nature Reserve:

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina, has welcomed the news that National Parks and Wildlife Service has acquired 37 hectares of land adjoining the Billinudgel Nature Reserve.

“An addition of 37 hectares of National Park estate in our region is not insignificant but as long as the Minister for the Environment, Matt Kean, insists on logging native forests, allowing core koala habitat to be destroyed en masse on rural land across the state and supporting new coal, National Parks are simply trophy cabinets.

“It is definitely a case of the left hand at odds with the right hand when it comes to the management of the environment by the Liberals and Nationals in NSW.  On the one hand the Minister says he wants to double koala populations, expand National Parks and end the expansion of coal mining in the State. On the other hand he is colluding with the Nationals and the right-wing of his party to strip protections for koalas on rural land, log our native forests and expand coal mining.

https://greens.org.au/nsw/news/national-parks-nsw-trophy-cabinets-lnp?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

https://www.miragenews.com/national-parks-in-nsw-trophy-cabinets-of-lnp-542518/

Council attempts to have Cumberland SF made into National Park:

The Hills Shire Council reports in a media release that it has put a planning proposal to rezone land within the Cumberland State Forest on hold until a decision is made by the NSW Government on the possibility of the Cumberland State Forest becoming a national park.

Council voted to delay determining whether or not to send the planning proposal for a Gateway Determination on the Forestry Corporation of NSW controlled sites during Tuesday’s Ordinary Meeting of Council.

Mayor of The Hills Shire, Dr Michelle Byrne said delaying the determination would allow time for full consideration of the national park proposal.

“The Cumberland State Forest is home to some of the country’s most valuable flora and fauna species and we would like to see it moved from a forestry land use to a national park so that generations of people can enjoy this wonderful space.  

“Reclassifying Cumberland into a national park strengthens its protection. In addition to this, national parks play a significant role in providing scientific research and conservation efforts, as well as providing the public with access to a place where they can appreciate the natural wonders of our local environment,” Mayor Byrne added.

The decision comes after the Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean MP advised Council that he had asked the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services to carry out a detailed assessment of the area as part of the process in determining whether to reclassify the urban forest into a national park.

https://www.thehills.nsw.gov.au/News-and-Publications/Planning-proposal-deferred-as-Council-calls-for-Cumberland-State-Forest-to-become-a-National-Park?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

Wildlife Heroes Wildlife Friendly Vets program:

The Ballina Shire Advocate reports that the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is launching the Wildlife Friendly Vets program as part of its 'Wildlife Heroes' project, which aims to support wildlife volunteers around the country.

The Wildlife Heroes Wildlife Friendly Vets program aims to:

  • Promote the challenging and unpaid work veterinary practices do, treating native wildlife (to vet clients, media and general public).
  • Improve veterinary wildlife care through funding and training.
  • Improve vet client awareness of wildlife rescue and wildlife needs.
  • Support wildlife rescue co-ordination between carers and vets, including during emergencies.

https://www.ballinaadvocate.com.au/news/wildlife-heroes-to-support-native-animals-during-b/4237090/?cspt=1618396364|9bd3241ad76496868f69f79d35ed0db9

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/lismore/the-foundation-for-national-parks-wildlife-is-launching-the-wildlife-friendly-vets-program-as-part-of-its-wildlife-heroes-project/news-story/1c89d8ef8904443386e352210782a80c?btr=964300eeaa769d5aafa55c2eb147b4c4

Is any bee a good bee?

The Guardian has an article about the impact of the fires on both native and exotic bees, with a focus on a person establishing hollows to encourage the recovery of feral European honeybees in native bush. The encouragement of feral bees is problematic as it is an impost upon the diminished resources available for native pollinators, while denying many plant species effective pollination.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/11/bees-bounce-back-after-australias-black-summer-any-life-is-good-life

Mangrove losses add up:

Griffith University researchers found that mangroves accumulate three to 10 times more carbon than most ecosystems on the planet and their loss is a significant contributor to climate change.

“This project allows nations to value mangroves, predict potential carbon emission from mangrove loss and place a value on these to help meet targets set under the Paris Climate Agreement.” 

The Mangrove Carbon app allows users to explore the contribution of mangrove protection to mitigating carbon emissions. 

The research ‘Future carbon emissions from mangrove forest loss’ has been published in Global Change Biology. 

https://news.griffith.edu.au/2021/04/15/new-research-determines-high-price-of-mangrove-loss/?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

Paperbarks eat methane:

While it is clear that we need trees to take up our carbon emissions, it is becoming evident that trees (or more correctly the soil beneath them) can emit the far more dangerous methane. The discovery that bacteria living on bark can convert methane to the less dangerous carbon dioxide again confirms the vital role of trees in the carbon cycle.

… in a world-first discovery published in Nature Communications, we found unique methane-eating communities of bacteria living within the bark of a common Australian tree species: paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia). These microbial communities were abundant, thriving, and mitigated about one third of the substantial methane emissions from paperbark that would have otherwise ended up in the atmosphere.

research from 2020 found low-lying subtropical Melaleuca forests in Australia emit methane at similar rates to trees in the Amazon.

Dead trees can emit methane, too. At the site of a catastrophic climate-related mangrove forest dieback in the Gulf of Carpentaria, dead mangrove trees were discovered to emit eight times more methane than living ones. This poses new questions for how climate change may induce positive feedbacks, triggering potent greenhouse gas release from dead and dying trees.

We confirmed, in other recent research, that wetland soils were indeed the source of methane emissions in lowland forest trees. But this wasn’t always the case.

We discovered the bark of paperbark trees provide a unique home for methane-oxidizing bacteria — bacteria that “consumes” methane and turns it into carbon dioxide, a far less potent greenhouse gas.

Remarkably, these bacteria made up to 25% of total microbial communities living in the bark, and were consuming around 36% of the tree’s methane. It appears these microbes make an easy living in the dark, moist and methane-rich environments.

https://theconversation.com/we-found-methane-eating-bacteria-living-in-a-common-australian-tree-it-could-be-a-game-changer-for-curbing-greenhouse-gases-158430?utm

We need to stop eating so much forest:

A recent study quantified the world-wide deforestation that results from rich-countries’ consumption of products such as soybeans, cocoa and timber. At least in Australia, as one of the world’s leading deforesters, we are not just off-setting all our deforestation to other countries.

In the last few years, as climate changes continues to become more severe, there has been a growing push for rich countries to pay poorer ones to preserve and protect rain forests and other tropical forests. However, according to a new study in Nature Ecology & Evolution, RIHN Associate Professor Keiichiro Kanemoto and Senior Researcher Nguyen Tien Hoang show that other financial motives, namely international trade, with these same rich countries have actually encouraged poorer countries to increase their annual deforestation levels from 2001 to 2015.

Forests cover nearly one third of the earth's land area. Moreover, tropical forests are estimated to provide the habitat of anywhere between half to 90% of all the terrestrial species. They are also home to an unknown number of pathogens that escape with deforestation, which can explain some of the epidemics seen in recent years. Frustratingly, despite their importance for both human and ecological health, forests are being brought down at an alarming rate because of their valuable land for mining, farming and other commodities.

Ultimately, the United States, with its high demand for several commodities, had the most distinguishable footprint including timber from Cambodia, rubber from Liberia, fruits and nuts from Guatemala, and soy and beef from Brazil.

Kanemoto and Hoang additionally estimated the number of trees consumed per resident of a nation, calculating that each person in a G7 country drives an average loss of four trees in the world, but residents in China and India only lead to the loss of one. However, the loss of some trees has a greater biological impact than others.

"Different tree types have different environmental and ecological roles. For example, the environmental impact of three Amazonian trees might be more severe than the impact of 14 trees in the boreal forests of Norway," they said.

Ultimately, the study indicates that if rich countries want poorer countries to protect their forests, they must incentivize sustainability.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/rifh-ptc032521.php

Climate News Network reports on the above, and an additional study that looked at the impact of demand for pulpwood, sugar cane, beef, corn and other commodities on South America:

They found that human impact on the continent’s land surface just between the years 1985 and 2018 had expanded by 60%. In those years the natural tree cover had dwindled by 16%, and the scale of pasture increased by 23%, cropland by 160% and plantation by 288%.

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/rich-worlds-demands-fell-poorer-worlds-forests/

Apple using forestry to offset carbon impacts:

Apple are investing in natural carbon sequestration to offset their emissions, though they don’t seem to understand that it takes years, and often decades, to offset the emissions from plantation establishment and that cutting the trees down later will release all their stored carbon.

Apple on Thursday announced a $200 million fund to invest in timber-producing commercial forestry projects, with the goal of removing carbon from the atmosphere while also generating profit.

The fund aims to remove one million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually from the atmosphere, equal to the amount spewed by more than 200,000 passenger vehicles.

Apple said last year it would become carbon neutral by 2030 for all its operations, including manufacturing.

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/apple-launches-200-million-forest-fund-nature-provides-best-tools-2415080

https://hypebeast.com/2021/4/apple-200-million-usd-fund-forest-restoration

https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/apple-creates-fund-working-forests-part-carbon-removal-efforts-2021-04-15/

And Whitehaven using tyres for forest rehabilitation:

Whitehaven Coal are proposing burying 730 used heavy-machinery tyres under its rehabilitated Leard State Forest because its too expensive to truck them elsewhere or recycle them.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-16/whitehaven-coal-plans-bury-tyres-in-leard-state-forest/100065972

Alien invasions come at cost of US$162.7 billion a year:

French (with one Australian) scientists have quantified the economic costs of our transport of species around the world:

Biological invasions are responsible for substantial biodiversity declines as well as high economic losses to society and monetary expenditures associated with the management of these invasions1,2. The InvaCost database has enabled the generation of a reliable, comprehensive, standardized and easily updatable synthesis of the monetary costs of biological invasions worldwide3. Here we found that the total reported costs of invasions reached a minimum of US$1.288 trillion (2017 US dollars) over the past few decades (1970–2017), with an annual mean cost of US$26.8 billion. Moreover, we estimate that the annual mean cost could reach US$162.7 billion in 2017. These costs remain strongly underestimated and do not show any sign of slowing down, exhibiting a consistent threefold increase per decade.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03405-6#author-information

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/invasive-alien-species-exact-huge-ecosystem-cost/

The depressing news is that despite the depression there has been no depression in CO2 emissions:

Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years

Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, NOAA announced today.

The global surface average for carbon dioxide (CO2), calculated from measurements collected at NOAA’s remote sampling locations, was 412.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2020, rising by 2.6 ppm during the year. The global rate of increase was the fifth-highest in NOAA’s 63-year record, following 1987, 1998, 2015 and 2016. The annual mean at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii was 414.4 ppm during 2020. 

The atmospheric burden of CO2 is now comparable to where it was during the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period around 3.6 million years ago, when concentrations of carbon dioxide ranged from about 380 to 450 parts per million. During that time sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra. 

“Human activity is driving climate change,” said Colm Sweeney, assistant deputy director of the Global Monitoring Lab. “If we want to mitigate the worst impacts, it’s going to take a deliberate focus on reducing fossil fuels emissions to near zero - and even then we’ll need to look for ways to further remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.”

https://research.noaa.gov/article/ArtMID/587/ArticleID/2742/Despite-pandemic-shutdowns-carbon-dioxide-and-methane-surged-in-2020

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/greenhouse-gas-levels-surge-despite-slow-economy/


Forest Media 9 April 2021

Hi, had to go a day early this week. It has been an extremely quite week for forests.

The deaths of a large proportion of forest trees gained a bit more coverage, but likely still not enough to put the Government off their intent to renew Wood Supply Agreements. Floods are now compounding the impacts of the fires – there are ecological limits. Despite the floods, we can’t forget about our increasingly imperiled forest wildlife and the combined impacts that droughts, heatwaves and fires are still having, notably on flying foxes and greater gliders. The upgraded Pacific Highway has claimed the life of an endangered coastal emu. Bangalow Koalas are planting corridors all over the place. Another day and another plan to create a race of super-koalas to repopulate our forests.

Mongabay has an in-depth article about the Bob Brown Foundation’s challenge to the RFA, focusing on the Swift Parrot.

COVID 19 has resulted in a worldwide housing boom, such that the Australian industry can’t keep up with demand, so (of course) are asking for taxpayer subsidies to be extended. Meanwhile in America they are genetically engineering eucalypts to stop them flowering and invading native vegetation.

Dailan Pugh

Forest deaths continue:

The Echo and Northern Rivers Times ran NEFA’s media release (see last week) on the loss of trees in the 2019-20 fires. The Echo included media from the NCC, citing Chris Gambian:

‘The EPA slowed Forestry Corp’s destructive behaviour by enforcing post-fire logging rules, but the corporation has now gone rogue, defying EPA controls and resuming pre-fire logging practices.’

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/04/burnt-logged-and-flogged-unsustainable-forestry-continues-unabated/

Northern Rivers Times 8 April 2021

From drought to flooding rains, and erosion:

Good item on ABC PM detailing the erosion threat of the flooding rains compounding the impacts of the bushfires, with David Lindenmayer focusing on the threat of logging:

Last month's huge rain event in New South Wales saw vast torrents pummel the land, in some cases, in areas that had already been savaged by the fierce 2019-20 wild fires. There's an ongoing impact of that double assault. Massive amounts of unstable soil has been swept away, draining into waterways, threatening river and wetland eco-systems and animal life, and wreaking havoc for farmers. Now, amid plans for salvage logging in some areas, there's a fight over whether areas that have been damaged by multiple natural disasters should be left alone altogether.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/pm/debate-over-land-use-after-multiple-natural-disasters/13289704

The continuing rise of super Koalas

Kyodo News reports on the intent to create "super koalas" by breeding Kangaroo Island’s chlamydia-free inbred Koalas (with a disease called oxalate nephrosis) “with a group of more genetically diverse males” from Victoria, with an intent use them to replace our obviously unfit and declining northern varieties:

"We will wind up with koalas that not only are free of infectious disease but are also free of oxalate nephrosis...in which case, you've got the healthiest, most robust, most resilient koalas you can possibly have," Daniels said.

We too can have super Koalas, creating super overpopulation and resulting in super defoliation.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/04/6f317b89c854-feature-after-bushfire-a-koala-ark-looks-to-future-proof-populations.html

Brytfmonline puts their slant on it:

Australian experts are trying to create one “Super Cola”, Matching stallions from the mainland with women survivors of wildfires on Kangaroo Island will kill them and control some of the most genetically modified diseases.

The other side of the coin is the low genetic type of kangaroo colas, which is due to insularity, but mainly All are descendants of 18 models brought to the island in the 1920s, … which previously had to be sterilized to prevent their population from erupting

https://www.brytfmonline.com/australia-wants-to-create-a-super-cola-starting/

Planting a future for Koalas:

ABC Gold Coast reports Bangalow Koala’s Linda Sparrow saying there was a surge in farmers wanting to create wildlife corridors on their land after the wildfires, noting that from February to September last year, Bangalow Koalas planted nearly 54,000 trees.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-08/permaculture-farm-joins-others-establishing-koala-corridor/13291250

Currumbin struggles to cope with ever increasing patients:

The Guardian reports on Currumbin Wildlife hospital, noting that in “2019 koala admissions increased to nearly 600, up from just 27 in 2008”. The identify that many animals in need of care were brought in during the bushfire disaster of 2020, but far more (particularly flying foxes) were admitted during the drought leading up to the fires, with senior vet Michael Pyne commenting “The three months leading up to those fires we saw a heap of animals coming in that were just starving and dehydrated.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/03/animal-emergency-inside-australias-currumbin-wildlife-hospital

Gliders crash:

Surveys for Greater Gliders in parts of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area have found that populations had plummeted by around 60 per cent after the successive impact of the 2019–20 bushfires, drought, and heatwaves, leading one of the researchers to comment:

"If we continue with this elevated level of fires and droughts and heatwaves you can really see them disappearing from the [World Heritage Area] entirely, so it is a big worry."

Dr Smith called for further action to mitigate climate change, warning the future for species like the gliders would be "diabolical" if the environmental conditions around the so-called Black Summer fires were to become the norm.

"Halting climate change needs to be a much more urgent priority in Australia than it has been," he said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-07/greater-glider-population-crashes-60-per-cent-in-blue-mountains/100050454

Upgraded motorway a new threat to endangered coastal emus:

The Northern Rivers Times reports that the upgraded Pacific Highway has claimed the life of an endangered coastal emu, following 2 reported sightings in the previous week.

Northern Rivers Times 8 April 2021

Saving Native Forests:

Mongabay has an in depth article about the Bob Brown Foundation’s challenge to the RFA, focusing on the Swift Parrot. It cites Bob Brown as concluding:

“People forget that the case we brought forth to protect Tasmania’s south west wilderness in the 1980s was thrown out by the High Court. Everyone told us it was over,” he said. “Eighteen months later, it was saved. All native forests will one day be conserved in Australia. It’s just a matter of when.”

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/04/australias-pivot-to-plantations-may-be-too-slow-for-nearly-extinct-parrots/

COVID 19 building boom creates timber shortage:

COVID 19 has caused a worldwide building boom, resulting in the timber industry calling for a time extension to the government’s HomeBuilder scheme to extend the subsidies to “ease demand for both domestic and imported timber” by extending the boom. Given that the industry can’t keep up with demand, you have to wonder why it is being subsidized by taxpayers:

“Timberlink is producing more timber than at any other time, and our $100 million investment in our Australian mill upgrade program will shortly further increase our production capacity.”

Executive general manager Cameron MacDonald said imports had previously made up 25 per cent of demand for timber in Australia.

“We’re seeing a worldwide phenomenon where government stimulus has seen a lot of new home building activity, as well as do-it-yourself projects, and the timber prices in the US have doubled,” Mr MacDonald said.

“So, a lot of those imports are going to America rather than coming to Australia and it’s really been a significant drop in imports.”

He said he hoped common sense would prevail with the HomeBuilder scheme, which required construction to start within six months.

“Everyone’s asking the federal government to relax that deadline so that we can push some of this demand out because it’s not just timber, it’s tradies, it’s bathroom fittings, everything’s in short supply at the moment,” he said.

https://thenewdaily.com.au/finance/property/2021/04/04/homebuilder-supply-shortage/

Engineering eucalypts to stop them flowering:

In America they are genetically modifying eucalypts to stop them seeding and invading natural ecosystems. Oregon State University reports:

Eucalyptus, a pest-resistant evergreen valued for its hardy lumber and wellness-promoting oil, can be genetically modified not to reproduce sexually, a key step toward preventing the global tree plantation staple from invading native ecosystems.

“Roughly 7% of the world’s forests are plantations, and 25% of that plantation area contains nonnative species and hybrids,” said Elorriaga, now a postdoctoral researcher at North Carolina State. “Eucalyptus is one of the most widely planted genera of forest trees, particularly the 5.7 million hectares of eucalyptus in Brazil, the 4.5 million hectares in China and 3.9 million hectares in India.”

Those plantings, the scientists note, can lead to undesirable mingling with native ecosystems. Thus eliminating those trees’ ability to sexually reproduce without affecting other characteristics would be an effective way to greatly reduce the potential for invasive spreading in areas where that is considered an important ecological or economic problem.

Strauss points out that despite the promising findings, trees genetically modified as they were in this research could not legally be planted in Brazil, a nation with some of the largest economic value from eucalyptus tree farming.

“The trait could not be used there due to laws against modifying plant reproduction with recombinant DNA methods,” he said. “It would also be disallowed for field research or commercial use under sustainable forest management certification in many parts of the world – something scientists have come together to severely criticize in recent years.”

https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/research-suggests-eucalyptus-trees-can-be-genetically-modified-not-invade-native-ecosystems?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news


Forest Media 2 April 2021

Our highlighting of the Government’s mismanagement of Koalas on private lands caused them some concern, so they re-announced the Tweed and Byron Koala PoMs. They are also spending $6.5 million on the Gunnedah Koala amusement park – Koalas will get to enjoy ziplining, playing mini-golf, petting rabbits and luxuriating in eco-tents. Kean and Barilaro’s bromance continues, with the Government soon to announce a strategy to double koala numbers by 2050 with funding of almost $180 million. Changes to river flows are having a ‘damming’ impact on platypuses.

The Forestry Corporation have declared Force Majeure because of the rain, amid worries about increased erosion and pollution. David Shoebridge observes that Public native forests are being logged for a net return of less than 20 cents per mature tree. The Forestry Corporation have released their desk-top review of sawlog losses from the fires, claimed to vary from 4% on the north coast to 30% on the south coast, though there seems to be some creative accountancy as for the north coast their data show a loss a loss of around 10% of sawlogs and 25% of smaller trees. NEFA is calling for an immediate 10% reduction in wood supply commitments to north-coast sawmillers and a freeze on imminent Wood Supply Agreements until sufficient plots are sampled to accurately quantify remaining timber volumes (and to stop logging public forests).Surprisingly Bega MP Andrew Constance thinks that the Forestry Corporation are “out of touch” and called for the agency to be disbanded given the rising tensions between it and the EPA.

Tasmanian loggers are disappointed that the Government didn’t succeed in getting penalties for first offence protestors of up to 18 months in jail, and four-year jail terms and a $10,000 fine for a second offence. Some were worried it may be applied to other protestors. They were also mortified that the Greens accused them of spiking trees, without any proof – they are the only ones who can demonise greenies without proof.

Time to panic with (reiterated) projections that on current trajectories by the end of this century Australia can expect bushfires on the catastrophic scale of Black Summer happen almost every year, regular 50℃ days in Sydney and Melbourne, storms and flooding violently reshaping our coastlines, and unique ecosystems damaged beyond recognition – including the Great Barrier Reef, which will no longer exist. The 2019 bushfires were as severe as normal in dry forests, but more so in wet forests, though their extent was unprecedented, representing 44% of the total area burned by high-severity fire since 1988. The warning is that the future of our wetter forest types, which have not evolved to cope with frequent and severe fires, is in jeopardy. The good news is that Australia’s environmental health has improved from 0.8 out of ten in 2019 to 3.2 last year.

Meanwhile, globally landclearing is on the increase with the tropics losing 12.2 million hectares (led by Brazil). Australia is still up there, and NSW is leading our way. We have passed 4 of the 9 planetary boundaries that risk changing earth’s trajectory and endangering the future of humans, with climate change and biosphere integrity the biggest threats. Trees are feeling the heat. Most of the world’s reserves just slow deforestation, rather than stopping it. Lastly Canberra wants more trees to enhance community wellbeing.

Dailan Pugh.

How to Extinct Koalas

Echonet ran my article on the evolution of the Koala Wars and the Koala Killing Bill.

The Koala Wars erupted between the National and Liberal Parties last September, while the Nationals are claiming victory over the Liberals, it is the loggers that have prevailed over koalas and local councils. 

Ironically the National’s declaration of war came after the bipartisan inquiry into ‘Koala populations and habitat in NSW’ released their findings in June 2020 that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat on private land, and that without urgent government intervention to protect habitat the koala will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050.

This appeared to inflame the debate about State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Koala Habitat Protection 2019, which applied to private forests, home to more than 60% of NSW’s koalas.  In early September the Nationals threatened to cross the floor unless the Liberal’s agreed to their demands to weaken protections for koalas. The Liberals surrendered.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/this-is-how-to-extinct-koalas/

Government re-announces Tweed and Byron KPoMs:

The Government can’t get enough good news, re-announcing the adoption of the Tweed (finalised in 2015) and Byron (finalised in 2016) Coastal Koala Plans of Management which were adopted last week with the new SEPP. They are trying to pretend they cover the whole of the shires, while both only apply to the coastal strip - Tweed’s covers 18% of the shire applying to some 3,800 ha of highly fragmented Koala habitat supporting some 140 Koalas, Byron’s covers 23% of the shire applying to some 2,000ha of highly fragmented Koala habitat supporting some 240 Koalas. Intriguingly, even though its Rob Stokes portfolio, John Barilaro is given top billing in the Government’s PR:

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said approval of the KPoMs would provide certainty to private landholders.

 “The majority of Tweed and Byron’s koala habitat is on private land and these KPoMs mean farmers and landowners will no longer have to do individual assessments when proposing new development,” Mr Barilaro said.

“It means koala habitat is protected and gives landowners greater certainty.”

https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/News/2021/Stronger-protections-for-North-Coast-koalas?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

Gunnedah’s Koala amusement park takes shape

Gunnedah koala park development application now on display includes a koala hospital, on-site camping, caravan park, eco-tents, mini golf course, a zipline, native animal enclosures, petting zoo for domestic animals, and indigenous cultural heritage centre – all to help in Koala recovery, I’m sure that the thrill of ziplining, a few rounds of mini golf and petting rabbits will make them happier and therefore recover quicker? This type of tourism is where the Koala money is mostly going, the State Government has so far invested $6.5 million in this project.

https://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/7185386/gunnedah-koala-park-da-packed-to-the-brim-with-attractions/

Kean and Barilaro’s bromance blossoms

The Sydney Morning Herald has a lengthy article about the NSW Government’s environmental wins and losses, generally painting a rosy picture of what Kean has been able to achieve while delivering on Barilaro’s demands for less regulation of private lands.

In a lengthy conversation with the Herald Kean was evidently proud of his government’s record, particularly his navigation of energy and climate policies and his proposed expansion of the state’s national parks by 370,000 hectares.

Kean said he would soon announce a strategy to double koala numbers by 2050. That policy will likely come with funding of almost $180 million.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/matt-kean-tries-to-turn-tide-on-nsw-coalition-s-dismal-conservation-record-20210328-p57er7.html

Some left overs from last week:

… NBN ran the Lismore Koala day of action:

“The State Environment Planning Policy that the New South Wales government introduced will do anything but protect koala habitat,” State Member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin, said.

“Making sure we give core koala habitat the legal protection it needs while providing financial assistance to landowners to protect it,” Dalian Pugh from the North East Forest Alliance said.

 https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/03/22/protesters-battle-the-rain-to-rally-against-koala-sepp/?fbclid=IwAR0_J7yPs_k-SzeanKu-QLm31UJBNA4MsuHUCHnEckiZdiJ9xLXaKbQm-Ns

The Northern Rivers Times (March 25) had 2 articles “Koala Kill Bill resurrected, NEFA claims” and “Protesters claim new laws will wipe out NSW’s Koalas” (about the Lismore rally).

Changes to river flows are having a ‘damming’ impact on platypuses

The researchers from UNSW Sydney’s Platypus Conservation Initiative in the Centre for Ecosystem Science (CES) say the natural flow regime needs to be replicated on dammed rivers if platypus populations are to recover in areas below large dams.

“The way dams are managed, such as the timing and volume of the release of water, can significantly impact on platypuses living downstream,” lead author Dr Tahneal Hawke said.

Their findings, published in the international scientific journal Aquatic Conservation, are concerning as much of the distribution of platypus overlaps with highly regulated or dammed rivers

https://www.aws.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/PRESS-RELEASE-Damming-impacts-of-river-regulation-on-platypuses-FINAL.pdf

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/mid-north-coast-home-to-the-elusive-platypus-66917

Wet weather forces Forestry to declare Force Majeure:

The SMH reports that the rains have forced the Forestry Corporation to trigger insurance provisions to allow it to halt most of its logging and timber supply operations on the NSW North Coast, also citing David Shoebridge as observing the “Forestry Corp earning less than 20 cents in profit per tree even with a range of subsidies that mask its loss-making native logging division”, and:

Dailan Pugh, a spokesman for the North East Forests Alliance, said loggers run the risk of creating long-term damage operating in the wet as their machinery creates huge ruts and compacts sodden soils. Tree removal from headwater regions can worsen erosion and pollute rivers.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/big-wet-prompts-forestry-corp-to-halt-northern-nsw-logging-operations-20210327-p57elf.html

Logging is not worth the cost:

The Greens review Forestry’s claimed profits:

Public native forests are being logged for a net return of less than 20 cents per mature tree, according to forestry data analysed by the NSW Greens.

This appallingly low return coupled with the increasing environmental damage caused by industrial logging confirms the need for an urgent end to this destructive and non viable industry.

Analysis of Forestry Corporation figures obtained by Greens MP David Shoebridge show the profit from native forest logging in 2019/20 was a just $28.00 a hectare. Over the last five years native logging profits have declined from a high of $225.85 in 2016/17 to less than half that.

With every hectare of native forest containing an average yield of 140 mature trees, this equates to an average profit of less than 20 cents for each mature tree logged.

"Ending native forest logging would allow the money currently wasted on forestry roads and destroying nature to be re-directed towards opening these forests up to their local communities and people across NSW," Mr Shoebridge said.

https://greens.org.au/nsw/news/cliff-edge-plunge-native-forest-profits-opportunity-get-chainsaws-out-north-coast-forests?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

https://www.miragenews.com/cliff-edge-plunge-for-native-forest-profits-is-536741/

Numerous trees killed by fires, but has no impact on timber:

The Forestry Corporation’s assessment of losses of high-quality sawlogs from the fires varies from 30% in south coast forests, 27% in Tumut, 14% in Eden and 4% in north-east NSW. NEFA reviewed Forestry’s guesstimates of tree fire losses for the north coast (I was interviewed on north-coast ABC):

The North East Forest Alliance is calling for an immediate 10% reduction in wood supply commitments to north-coast sawmillers from public forests because of the widespread death of trees due to the Black Summer bushfires, and a freeze on any new commitments until sufficient plots are sampled to accurately quantify remaining timber volumes.

The Forestry Corporation report ‘2019–20 Wildfires, NSW Coastal Hardwood Forests Sustainable Yield Review’ undertakes a preliminary desktop review of the likely impacts of the Black Summer wildfires on timber resources.

The Forestry Corporation estimate is that there has been a significant loss of trees across at least a third of the north coast’s State Forests (north from Gosford), with a loss of 10-50% of large sawlog sized trees over 30 cm diameter at breast height, and 50-100% of smaller trees, according to NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“The worst affected stands were those logged in the previous 4 years where over 90% of trees were killed.

“Overall, across the north coast State Forests, the Forestry Corporation estimate there has been a loss of around 10% of sawlogs and 25% of smaller trees. North from Coffs Harbour these losses increase to 15% of sawlogs and 35% of smaller trees.

“It appears the NSW Government intends to rely upon this simplistic review to sign new Wood Supply Agreements to replace the current 20 year agreements due to expire in 2023.

… the losses in the south get attention:

The Guardian reports that Justin Field said a review by the Natural Resources Commission of forestry operations in fire-hit regions should be completed before any new logging was considered. NSW forestry minister, John Barilaro apparently intends to continue business as usual on the north coast though may reduce quotas elsewhere, reported as commenting:

“In some areas we will be able to largely continue to supply timber at existing levels over the long term as forests are harvested and regrown time and again,” he said.

“In other areas we cannot carry on with business as usual over the long term and will need to work with timber mills to make adjustments to supply.”

Intriguingly it reports:

On Monday, government minister and Bega MP Andrew Constance told the ABC that the Forestry Corporation was “out of touch” with what south coast residents had been through and called for the agency to be disbanded given the rising tensions between it and the EPA.

“I think it has become a body that butts heads with the EPA the entire time,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/31/nsw-urged-to-stop-logging-native-forests-after-fires-wipe-out-up-to-30-of-timber-supply?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR1PrZpbaG2DINSgFM2PdDuT0kEmFd2qLcxOG3WZhtPvvgK7nv_XNR40Le8

Tasmania’s anti-protest laws go down:

The Liberal government introduced anti-protest laws in 2014, aimed particularly at opponents of the forestry industry, which were challenged in the High Court by Bob Brown and were found to be unconstitutional, as they impacted the implied freedom of political communication. The Government tried again, with the legislation going to the Upper House this week with penalties for a first offence under the laws of up to 18 months in jail, while a second offence could attract a four-year term and a $10,000 fine. Tasmania's Upper House voted down the anti-protest laws, with six in favour and eight against.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-26/tasmania-long-history-of-environmental-activism/100025328

The loggers don’t like the finger being pointed at them:

Loggers immediately blame greenies if anything happens, such as old nails in sawn logs, sawmills catching fire, machinery being vandalised, when often such incidents can be accidents, actions by disgruntled employees, random acts or even deliberate acts to obtain insurance or discredit greenies. While loggers eagerly use such incidents to demonise forest protectors (despite having no proof), they froth at the mouth when they are accused of orchestrating such events, describing it as “gutter politics and typical of the demonisation and mental abuse that has been inflicted for decades on good hard-working people”. I know how that feels.

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/tasmanian-greens-leader-must-apologise-for-disgraceful-slur/

Time to panic – if you’re not already:

The Conversation reports:

Imagine, for a moment, a different kind of Australia. One where bushfires on the catastrophic scale of Black Summer happen almost every year. One where 50 days in Sydney and Melbourne are common. Where storms and flooding have violently reshaped our coastlines, and unique ecosystems have been damaged beyond recognition – including the Great Barrier Reef, which no longer exists.

Frighteningly, this is not an imaginary future dystopia. It’s a scientific projection of Australia under 3 of global warming – a future we must both strenuously try to avoid, but also prepare for.

The sum of current commitments under the Paris climate accord puts Earth on track for 3℃ of warming this century. Research released today by the Australian Academy of Science explores this scenario in detail.

The damage is already evident. Since records began in 1910, Australia’s average surface temperature has warmed by 1.4, and its open ocean areas have warmed by 1. Extreme events – such as storms, droughts, bushfires, heatwaves and floods – are becoming more frequent and severe.

At 3℃ of global warming by 2100, oceans are projected to absorb five times more heat than the observed amount accumulated since 1970. Being far more acidic than today, ocean oxygen levels will decline at ever-shallower depths, affecting the distribution and abundance of marine life everywhere. At 1.5-2℃ warming, the complete loss of coral reefs is very likely.

Under 3℃ warming, global sea levels are projected to rise 40-80 centimetres, and by many more metres over coming centuries.

At 3℃ of warming, the number of extreme fire days could double.

A 3℃ global temperature increase would reduce yields of key crops by between 5% and 50%. Significant reductions are expected in oil seeds (35%), wheat (18%) and fruits and vegetables (14%).

Under a sea level rise of 1 metre by the end of the century – a level considered plausible by federal officials – between 160,000 and 250,000 Australian properties and infrastructure are at risk of coastal flooding.

Heatwaves on land and sea are becoming longer, more frequent and severe. For example, at 3℃ of global warming, heatwaves in Queensland would happen as often as seven times a year, lasting 16 days on average. These cause physiological heat stress and worsen existing medical conditions.

At 3°C global warming, many locations in Australia would be very difficult to inhabit due to projected water shortages.

https://theconversation.com/seriously-ugly-heres-how-australia-will-look-if-the-world-heats-by-3-this-century-157875?utm

Are Bushfires getting more severe?

The Conversation reports:

… we found the average proportion of high-severity wildfire remained constant in dry forest — the dominant vegetation across this region. There was, however, evidence of an increase in the average proportion of high-severity fire in wet forests and rainforests, along with woodlands.

While the proportion of high-severity fires hasn’t changed, the enormous range of the 2019-2020 bushfires meant 44% of the total area burned by high-severity fire since 1988 occurred in that one summer alone.

This means 1.8 million hectares of the forest and woodland regions of southeastern Australia — an enormous proportion — was exposed to intense and severe fire. In this regard, the Black Summer bushfires were exceptional.

As Australians remember all too clearly, this had a devastating effect on the environment. An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced, vulnerable rainforests burned and 3,000 homes were destroyed.

As bushfires become larger in the future, the area exposed to intense and severe fires is likely to increase commensurately. As a result, the future of our wetter forest types, which have not evolved to cope with frequent and severe fires, is in jeopardy.

https://theconversation.com/a-staggering-1-8-million-hectares-burned-in-high-severity-fires-during-australias-black-summer-157883

At least we’re not in total collapse – yet:

The Conversation reports on a scorecard of our environmental health based on the indicators of high temperatures, river flows, wetlands, soil health, vegetation condition, growth conditions and tree cover, with the data available at the local government area scale, noting:

A year ago, after prolonged drought and devastating bushfires, Australia’s environment scored a shocking 0.8 out of ten. Our new research shows nature started its long road to recovery in 2020, especially in New South Wales and Victoria.

Nationally, Australia’s environmental condition score increased by 2.6 points last year, to reach a (still very low) score of 3.2. But overall conditions across large swathes of the country remain poor.

Finally, pressure your local, state and national politicians. Ask them: how are you addressing vegetation loss, invasive pests and over-extraction from rivers? If you don’t like the answer, tell them, or try to vote them out.

With greater urgency and some luck, there is still much to be salvaged.

https://theconversation.com/even-after-the-rains-australias-environment-scores-a-3-out-of-10-these-regions-are-struggling-the-most-157590?utm

Landclearing increases again in 2020:

Global Forest Watch and the University of Maryland found the tropics lost 12.2 million hectares of tree cover in 2020, nearly a third of that loss (4.2 million hectares) occurred within humid tropical primary forests. Primary forest loss was 12% higher in 2020 than the year before, and it was the second year in a row that primary forest loss worsened in the tropics. Once again Brazil is by far the worst offender, accounting for over a third of all loss.

Of that, 4.2 million hectares, an area the size of the Netherlands, occurred within humid tropical primary forests, which are especially important for carbon storage and biodiversity. The resulting carbon emissions from this primary forest loss (2.64 Gt CO2) are equivalent to the annual emissions of 570 million cars, more than double the number of cars on the road in the United States.

From 2001 to 2020, Australia lost 8.47Mha of tree cover, equivalent to a 20% decrease in tree cover since 2000, and 1.86Gt of CO₂ emissions. … New South Wales had the most tree cover loss at 2.89Mha.

https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/data-and-research/global-tree-cover-loss-data-2020/

The Guardian reports:

On Wednesday, the UK, which will host the vital UN Cop26 talks this November, is holding a conference on climate and development at which wealthy nations will be asked to come up with plans to help the most vulnerable countries cut emissions and cope with the effects of climate breakdown. Campaigners hope to raise the issue of forest funding there.

“Forests need to be on the agenda for Cop26,” said Seymour. “The world’s forests are still an enormous carbon sink, and we need to keep that carbon sequestered to avert catastrophic climate change.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/31/destruction-of-worlds-forests-increased-sharply-in-2020-loss-tree-cover-tropical

Passing planetary tipping points:

In an in-depth article, Mongabay reports that we have passed 4 of the 9 planetary boundaries that risk changing earth’s trajectory and the future of humans:

Of the four boundaries that researchers say we have already exceeded, climate change and biosphere integrity are considered “core” planetary boundaries because either one, on its own, could change the course of Earth’s trajectory and endanger humanity.

“There’s enough science today to say that [human-induced climate change] on its own can knock the planet away from the Holocene state,” Rockström said. “Similarly, if we just continue our mass extinction, losing more and more species, from phytoplankton to top predators, you will come to a point where the whole planet [system] collapses.”

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/03/the-nine-boundaries-humanity-must-respect-to-keep-the-planet-habitable/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=761d9bdc00-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-761d9bdc00-77229786&mc_cid=761d9bdc00&mc_eid=c0875d445f

Trees getting feverish:

Mongabay reports on research that found leaves can’t handle it if it gets too hot:

  • A recent study from Brazil shows that heat stress is disrupting a critical component of photosynthesis in tree species found in the Amazon and Cerrado belt.
  • Leaves heat up faster than the ambient air, and sufficiently high temperatures can cause irreversible damage to them and endanger the tree.
  • The area has become hotter in recent decades and faced increasingly intense heat waves, fueled not just by global warming but also local deforestation.
  • Tropical forests could look more and more like deciduous forests or savannas in the future, which are better adapted to deal with higher temperatures, the study found.

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/03/study-sounds-latest-warning-of-rainforest-turning-into-savanna-as-climate-warms/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=761d9bdc00-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-761d9bdc00-77229786&mc_cid=761d9bdc00&mc_eid=c0875d445f

Most forest reserves unprotected:

A global study published in Nature has found that most protected areas just slow deforestation rather than stopping it:

Overall, protected areas did not eliminate deforestation, but reduced deforestation rates by 41%. Protected area deforestation rates were lowest in small reserves with low background deforestation rates. Critically, we found that after adjusting for effectiveness, only 6.5%—rather than 15.7%—of the world’s forests are protected, well below the Aichi Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2020 Target of 17%. We propose that global targets for protected areas should include quantitative goals for effectiveness in addition to spatial extent

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-021-01389-0.epdf?sharing_token=VVd-gIjC5HmzkMfEJ_IqJNRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0Mz_ZQZK_576EvdgL9ItQMb3uyGthXmH4gM2eey0KawXBmPlSaCgZV1lM90bRKSlqf-5U5Q4nC0OZRV8qsWEqIQEUfgl7dhUDLMbdiwWeOdlUyTyfpj9ed7YhTS10yQFONZEV8oxDvxuPpm1zLek0DDzhd0QKkIn4ID86B4-yBiQ_MRZk5Ez3eg_ZWTP_QcSfJZd8XS2gMmHkTGKxmRlONBuovWF9HBuf3LwmEgnQfa_QjW_qVER78T4mHkoIEV7c7V1aQvuOPJ_3e0shpWZ4oSx0sSf3MUlIgtxhTV3DTTW7GiEEnYQwFKMO3q7YfL4fnZPP-PSX5vapolDW00t7XtahPeoodbC5HUR6E7p8DMu2HSEdJFYpAGbCCikIyyAQMMzDVWtHyFC0zYSvsLZ75XLqV28s1bbHvj_cwXeRtR6vlvxOenKVqY4FpDK_hNrBFGltvdM8NLg5vlEU7o0HA2MZtBV9XKIGAZzsqSPWEKP-dzT-1XogJmnzVp3LBttyDAZLKITPvRO5AGQQhNua_HZO50TnGHZq3itJ7d3JH9lA%3D%3D&tracking_referrer=news.mongabay.com

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/03/only-6-5-of-global-forests-are-adequately-protected-study-finds/?utm_

Valuing urban trees:

Canberra is using trees to make it more liveable:

The ACT’s Urban Forest Strategy has today been released to guide the growth of our urban forest and maintain a resilient, diverse and sustainable tree canopy.

“Canberra’s urban forest is one of our city’s most precious community assets. It contributes to cooling our suburbs, cleaning our air, improving the liveability of our streetscapes, providing habitat for local wildlife and enhancing community wellbeing,” said Minister for City Services Chris Steel.

“The Strategy provides a framework to achieve this while working towards the target of 30 per cent canopy cover or equivalent by 2045.”

https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/chris-steel-mla-media-releases/2021/acts-urban-forest-strategy-released?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

https://www.miragenews.com/acts-urban-forest-strategy-released-536554/


Forest Media 26 March 2021

Unfortunately our Koala Day of Action was washed out, though Murwillumbah went ahead in sunshine, Lismore in rain and a small action took place on the south coast. Tweed Council has expressed its dismay about the new SEPP only applying to small areas, asking it apply to the whole of its local government area as it does on the central coast. The Federal Government is due to start its $2 million great Koala count, why avoiding needed action. Amongst Victoria’s reintroduced Koalas there remains a patch of genetically complex survivors from the genocide, in need of help.  AKF’s Deborah Tabart has launched her Koala Manifesto. The superhero Koala Man is making a comeback, amongst great interest.

The Forestry Corporation is resuming logging operations on the South Coast in forests that were heavily burnt during the Black Summer bushfires, against the advice of the EPA and in contravention of legal requirements. Graziers and environmentalists have joined forces to stop logging of an irreplaceable swathe of old mountain ash forest in Victoria’s high country. Dr Jennifer Sanger defends her withdrawal of a paper on the effects of logging on fires pointing out that “Despite our paper retraction, there is still clear and overwhelming evidence that logging makes forests more flammable”. At the Federal level, Assistant Forestry Minister Jonathon Duniam displays his objectivity in estimates: “Our pathway forward will be guided by industry, they will tell us what they need and my job is to deliver for them,”

Another study found outbreaks of infectious diseases are more likely in areas of deforestation and monoculture plantations. There is growing recognition of the need to protect and restore native forests to address the twin crises of species extinction and climate warming, except in Australia where our ignorant government thinks short rotation pulp plantations are the answer.

Dailan Pugh

Koalas do it again:

The wet weather put a dampener on our Koala day of action, with only Murwillumbah and Lismore proceeding on the north coast, and Lismore greatly reduced. The Echo gave Murwillumbah good coverage.

The event at Knox Park was organised and MC’d by NRG member Lori Scinto and was joined and supported by Team Koala and the Caldera Environment Centre. Speakers included NRG President Scott Sledge, NEFA President Dailan Pugh, Tweed Shire Councillor Katie Milne, and Limpinwood resident and wildlife carer Susie Hearder.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/saveourkoalas-day-found-sun-in-murwillumbah/

Tweed Council considered the new SEPP and expressed their concerns, passing a resolution, including:

Seeks an urgent meeting with the State members for Tweed and Lismore, Mr Geoff Provest MP, and Ms Janelle Saffin MP respectively, and the Minister for Planning and Public Places, the Hon. Rob Stokes to discuss the following issues: a) potential amendments to the Koala SEPP 2021 to permit the preparation of koala plan of management under the Koala SEPP to apply to all land, including rural zoned land. b) the proposed removal council’s consent role in relation to forestry. c) environmental planning measures to ensure that koala habitat is appropriately zoned in Council LEPs. d) further consultation with stakeholders including councils, researchers and practitioners to ensure the Koala SEPP 2021 meets the needs and aspirations of local communities. e) further investment in hardwood plantations instead of harvesting native forest.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/tweed-council-calls-for-same-koala-protections-as-central-coast/

A small group of 11from the Far South Coast Koala Action group took to the highway in front of Potoroo Palace to participate in statewide Koala Action Day.

https://www.begadistrictnews.com.au/story/7179251/potoroo-palace-rallies-behind-save-koalas-campaign/

News of the Area reports that Koalas are moving closer to extinction in New South Wales, according to conservationists, because of the concessions to farmers resulting from the recent agreement between the NSW Liberals and Nationals. Includes comments from Cate Faehrmann and Dominic King, as well as mentioning the proposed rally.

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/back-past-square-one-for-koalas-as-rural-land-excluded-from-sepp-66379

While the Federal Government’s Koala Recovery Plan is 5 years overdue, they intend to avoid doing anything to protect them while they do a national count – at a cost of $2 million – which is now due to start in July.

https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/science/environment/2021/03/22/koala-census-july/

https://www.hepburnadvocate.com.au/story/7177627/nationwide-koala-count-to-start-in-months/?cs=9676

… Australian Koala Foundation:

An interview with Australian Koala Foundation’s Deborah Tabart and her 33-year fight to save the koalas

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/brisbane/programs/mornings/deborah-tabart-the-koala-manifesto/13267326

Deborah Tabart has launched her the book The Koala Manifesto, her ‘10 Koala Commandments’ include:

  • The Koala Protection Act to be enacted into law immediately;
  • A national koala mapping standard;
  • Logging of native koala forests to stop, better management of plantation forests adjacent to koala habitats and cleared farmland to be regenerated;
  • Call for a royal commission into the industries and individuals who have knowingly and wantonly sought to kill koala habitat and koalas;
  • Call for a bill of rights for the environment;

https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/call-for-dramatic-koala-action/news-story/be072138e517026c6b25ac8601d89354

… some Victorian survivors of the genocide:

A small but largely unknown population of endemic koalas, once believed wiped out across mainland Victoria, were found in fragmented habitat in the 1990s, living in the Strzelecki in South Gippsland, Victoria. The problem is that most of Victoria and SA’s Koalas were hunted to extinction, before being repopulated by surviving animals on French Island and Phillip Island with a small gene pool. The resultant weak gene pool has been found to lead to kidney and renal failures, undescended testicles and high levels of hermaphroditism, while also making them highly vulnerable to a disease outbreak. The Strzelecki Koalas, with their diverse genetics, are thus of outstanding importance.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/unique-koala-group-thought-to-be-extinct-faces-new-threat-100307368.html

… now they’re boasting that they can stop Koalas climbing trees to save them:

In an innovative collaboration between DES and the Department of Transport and Main Roads, the Koala shield metal guards – will be affixed to posts along the M1 motorway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast to prevent the claws of koalas and other nocturnal wildlife from getting a grip on the poles.

https://www.ausleisure.com.au/news/koala-safety-shield-trialled-to-reduce-queensland-wildlife-road-toll/

… their humanity just makes them adorable:

Gulf News has a photo essay on Koalas.

https://gulfnews.com/world/oceania/fresh-deluge-worsens-one-in-100-year-australia-floods-1.78013003

Macarthur Advertiser reports on a book by John Pickrell Flames of Extinction: The race to save Australia's threatened wildlife, about his journeys “through the firegrounds to find stories about the creatures that escaped the flames, the wildlife workers who rescued them, and the conservationists, land managers, Aboriginal rangers, ecologists and firefighters on the frontline of the climate catastrophe”.

https://www.macarthuradvertiser.com.au/story/7179252/book-delves-into-animal-conservation-efforts-during-201920-bushfires/

Have no fear, Koala Man is coming to Hulu. The streaming service has ordered the family animated series that will follow an Australian suburban superhero. He is described as an Australian suburban hero with no power greater than a passion for stopping petty crime and bringing order to his community.

https://tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/koala-man-hulu-orders-animated-series-about-australian-superhero/

https://www.gamesradar.com/rick-and-morty-co-creator-justin-roiland-creating-new-animated-series-for-hulu/

https://animesuperhero.com/is-the-world-ready-for-koala-man/

… and the stories continue.

Illegal?, or is it just immoral?, logging of burnt south coast forests resumes:

About Regional reports the Forestry Corporation is resuming logging operations on the South Coast in forests that were heavily burnt during the Black Summer bushfires, against the advice of the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), reporting:

In the meantime, the EPA says it has increased its regulatory oversight of logging operations and that its officers are actively monitoring forestry operations at all stages of logging: pre, post and during harvesting.

“Where the EPA identifies a non-compliance, it will take appropriate regulatory action,” said the spokesperson.

Includes comments from Richard Barcham and Harriet Swift.

https://aboutregional.com.au/forestry-corporation-ignores-epa-and-resumes-logging-in-heavily-burnt-forests/

Graziers unite with forest protectors:

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that graziers and environmentalists have joined forces to stop logging of an irreplaceable swathe of old mountain ash forest in Victoria’s high country that hasn’t burnt since 1939.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/graziers-and-greenies-unite-in-drive-to-save-the-forest-20210312-p57a0n.html

The burning matter of professional integrity:

In a letter to the Tasmanian Examiner Dr Jennifer Sanger defends her withdrawal of a paper on the effects of logging on fires (due to an error in Forestry plantation maps) against an attack by Senator Eric Abetz, pointing out that “Despite our paper retraction, there is still clear and overwhelming evidence that logging makes forests more flammable”.

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7180950/forestry-conflict-of-interest-claims-ironic/

Forestry should be Exempt from National Laws:

Its not just the NSW Nationals who think that forestry should be able to rape and pillage regardless of threatened species, so too do the national Liberals. Mike Foley reports that despite Graeme Samuel’s review of the EPBC Act finding “there are “fundamental shortcomings” in Regional Forest Agreements and he had “low confidence” they were upholding Commonwealth protections for native forests subject to logging operations”, in Federal Senate estimates Assistant Forestry Minister Jonathon Duniam responded to the Nationals:

“Our pathway forward will be guided by industry, they will tell us what they need and my job is to deliver for them,”

… “My job, broadly, is to maintain the Regional Forest Agreements in their current form,” .... “We are pro-forestry, we want to grow the sector.”

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/we-are-pro-forestry-minister-rejects-call-to-enhance-threatened-species-protections-20210323-p57d8y.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_feed

Logging and plantations incubate pestilence:

The Guardian reports on research that found outbreaks of infectious diseases are more likely in areas of deforestation and monoculture plantations, noting “this was because diseases are filtered and blocked by a range of predators and habitats in a healthy, biodiverse forest. When this is replaced by a palm oil plantation, soy fields or blocks of eucalyptus, the specialist species die off, leaving generalists such as rats and mosquitoes to thrive and spread pathogens across human and non-human habitats. The net result is a loss of natural disease regulation”. The researchers note:

we find that the increases in outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases from 1990 to 2016 are linked with deforestation, mostly in tropical countries, and with reforestation, mostly in temperate countries. We also find that outbreaks of vector-borne diseases are associated with the increase in areas of palm oil plantations. Our study gives new support for a link between global deforestation and outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases as well as evidences that reforestation and plantations may also contribute to epidemics of infectious diseases.

Scientists, public health and policymakers should reconcile the need to preserve biodiversity while taking into account the health risks posed by lack or mismanagement of forest (both deforestation and afforestation) by considering the following recommendations:

  • halt deforestation by implementing an international governance of forests and their contributions to healthy planet and people;
  • develop research on disease regulating service provided by forests and other ecosystems, which may help at better manage forested and planted areas;
  • recognize that forests and plantations not only contribute to carbon sequestration but to biodiversity and global health;
  • following Veldman et al. (39), revise the forest definitions of the FAO as to avoid afforestation, forest expansion, and agricultural conversion of grasslands.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2021.661063/full

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/24/disease-outbreaks-more-likely-in-deforestation-areas-study-finds?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=6f2d90b487-briefing-dy-20210324&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-6f2d90b487-46198454

Some are beginning to realise the true value of forests:

The Seattle Times reports on a rethink going on in Washington state where the commissioner of public lands pulled back nearly 40 acres with most of the biggest, oldest trees from an approved timber sale, and is now reconsidering the future of 10,000 acres of the oldest forests “to rethink the value of trees on state lands not as logs, but as trees to help address the twin crises of species extinction and climate warming”. And two of her predecessors have launched a proposal to gradually stop all commercial harvest of state forests west of the Cascades, for what they see as a higher purpose: combating the climate crisis.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/amid-climate-crisis-a-proposal-to-save-washington-state-forests-for-carbon-storage-not-logging/

In New Zealand the Climate Change Commission’s proposal for 300,000 hectares of new native forests to be established by 2035 to provide effective carbon sinks over the next century, has been attacked as not being ambitious enough, with calls for between 1 million and 2 million hectares of new permanent native forest cover.

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK2103/S00554/radical-change-in-thinking-required-to-meet-ambitious-native-forest-targets.htm

…. Australia just doesn’t get it:

While other countries recognize the need to replant and restore permanent forests, all that Australia can think about are short rotation plantations. Federal Assistant Minister for Forestry Jonathon Duniam has signaled the Federal Government will ramp up efforts to unlock the carbon storing potential of Australia’s forest industries, drive growth in the plantation estate and boost future timber supply.

https://www.miragenews.com/federal-government-commits-to-unlocking-forest-534248/


Forest Media 19 March 2021

Koalas continue their media dominance with our various actions garnering a bit of attention (the echo articles have a full list of events if anyone is interested), the NCC have come on board and added additional actions as far afield as Armidale, Heatherbrae and Merimbula, raising the number of events to 11. The only problem is that a variety are likely to be flooded out. A great effort and worth replicating when it’s a bit dryer. It apparently freaked the Government out as they released their new SEPP, approved Tweed and Byron KPoMs and bought 69 ha of Koala habitat adjacent to Cudgen NR, all in the last few days. The new SEPP2021 is worse than expected, while it only applies to non rural zones (excluding 2.4 million ha, 90%, of private forests) koala plans now require the approval of the head of Barilaro’s Department.

The week started with a good in depth article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Koalas, focusing on the Great Koala National Park. The Northern Star and Daily Telegraph had good articles about the travesty of Tweed’s KPoM. Namoi Valley Independent reports that an approved rail loop for the Shenhua Watermark will wipe out core Koala habitat. Its not just NRMA, Koalas are fast becoming an advertising icon, PETA are using them to protest land clearing for meat eaters and Australian reddit traders are offering koala adoption certificates.

Populations of Regent Honeyeaters are losing their culture, they may have dropped to such low levels that young males no longer have adults to teach them love songs, leaving females unimpressed by their mimicry of other species.

The Natural Resources Commission has finally announced the will undertake the long-promised review of logging in burnt State Forests, apparently looking at the adequacy of the logging prescriptions in light of the fires, as well as impacts on resources. More secret business with outcomes likely suppressed for months. Burning forests also attracted a bit of attention with NEFA and No Electricity From Forests holding their first protest at the Redbank power plant. And now, unlike Coal (and probably biomass), renewable energy projects are going to require a social licence.

There is increasing interest in the health benefits of recreation in forests, and even parks, where what started off as assessments of the health benefits of a walk in the forest is fast becoming an organised spiritual exercise. The benefits of plantings in urban areas in lowering temperatures and cleaning air is being increasingly recognised as essential to make cities liveable in a heating world. In this context Councils are being required to review their Crown lands and rationalise public parks, some councils opting to get rid of “surplus” parks.

For those interested, next Saturday is World Frog Day and Sunday is International Day of Forests and start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Its good to see that as we rebound from COVID some countries are undertaking mass plantings in the goal to reach net zero emissions, including as one of a variety of environmental stimulus measures, just not us Australians.

Dailan Pugh

Koalas continue their media dominance:

… day of action garners attention as next chapter is saga unfolds:

This Sunday March 21, two local conservation groups have organised three events to participate in a statewide Koala Action Day. They hope that many locals will join in the fun and show their support for koalas in our region.

https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/7170524/koala-action-day/

The #Koala Day of Action will see a range of activites being held in Sydney and around the state this weekend to protest the new koala laws that will see the likely extinction of koalas by 2050 in NSW Cr Coorey told The Echo.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/from-byron-to-sydney-to-armidale-koaladayofaction/

The Echo reports on NEFA’s media release that condemned an announcement by NSW Liberals and Nationals government ministers Barilaro, Stokes and Kean that they have made a deal on koala protection, including highlighting the Murwillumbah action.

NEFA spokesperson, Dailan Pugh, says the new plan will ‘take away Council’s ability to require consent for logging, as well as their ability to create environmental zones’.

He says, ‘Over 60 per cent of koalas occur on private lands, and now the vast majority of their habitat will be available for clearing and logging, without any mapping of core koala habitat and no requirements to look for koalas.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/nsw-govt-accused-of-resurrecting-koala-killing-bill/

Rob Stokes then made the new State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2021 on 17 March, The Echo ran NEFAs comments, as well as promoting the day of action, in part I sent them:

After all the years of effort and angst put into preparing the new SEPP it is incredible that Robert Stokes has now excluded rural and forestry zones from its ambit as these represent 2.4 million hectares (90%) of north-east NSW’s private forests.

Given that its now mostly limited to Development Applications in existing environmental zones and lots over 1 ha in other zones its hard to know what it can achieve.

Stokes deal is that the problematic and largely ineffective 1995 SEPP 44, with its 10 feed trees, will still apply to the rural and forestry zones. One step forward, 25 years back.

The price Stokes paid to get this token outcome is the opening up of identified core Koala habitat for logging and self-assessed land clearing, allowing logging to over-ride Council’s Local Environment Plans, and stopping Councils being able to protect core Koala habitat in environmental zones.

Robert Stokes and Matt Kean should be ashamed of themselves for signing off on this deal with the Nationals.

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/koala-sepp-fails-to-protect-koalas-say-experts/

The Sydney Morning Herald focused on the clause “Before approving a koala plan of management, the Planning Secretary must obtain the concurrence of the Secretary of Regional NSW”, commenting:

The top bureaucrat in the office of Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro will have the final say over contested koala habitat under new laws, prompting fears the vulnerable species may face an even bleaker future.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/another-blow-fears-over-koala-habitat-veto-for-barilaro-s-office-20210318-p57c0y.html

Tweed Valley Weekly has an article citing Team Koala lamenting that SEPP21 has “eroded the powers of council to prevent the loss of key koala habitats”,  Sledge saying “If we want a NSW future to include our precious and iconic koalas, we must demonstrate a strong, united and unwavering public presence and pressure”, and Lori Scinto fed up “with the government’s political spin and disgraceful dishonesty”.

Tweed Valley Weekly 18 March 2021  

… great Koala story:

The Sydney Morning Herald has a general article (including video and photo gallery), focusing on the Great Koala National Park, highlighting that the Stokes-Barilaro deal will aggravate the plight of Koalas and that the Koala wars are far from over. Interestingly it emphasizes that Barilaro went public with the deal before the “codes” intended to protect Koalas under the LLS Act (land clearing and logging) were developed, effectively blindsiding Stokes yet again. Reading through the released Government documents shows that since late 2019 Stokes has been asking for the Nationals to put forward the “codes” before “decoupling” but they have failed to – and it is assumed they have no intention to do so.

Includes quotes from Dominic King, Mark Graham, and Clarence Valley Council about the failure to adopt their KPoM.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/nsw-s-koala-truce-may-be-temporary-as-deep-divisions-remain-20210310-p579mj.html

The Northern Star reports that north coast Councils are still waiting to have their KPoMs approved, reporting

Tweed Shire Council's senior program leader of biodiversity, sustainability and environment, Scott Hetherington, said new state planning rules will do little to protect many of the state's vulnerable koala populations in rural areas.

"So what you're relying on is the landholder to make the call themselves, where everybody else who wants to do a development has to engage an ecologist … to come and make a professional assessment. 

Lismore Northern Star, March 15, 2021

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/subscribe/news/1/?sourceCode=DTWEB_WRE170_a_GGL&dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailytelegraph.com.au%2Fnews%2Fnsw%2Flismore%2Fsenior-tweed-shire-council-staff-concerned-about-nsws-new-koala-policy%2Fnews-story%2F7c0bf322e29c6c50c377031205025d53&memtype=anonymous&mode=premium

… Shenhua Watermark Coal Mine could destroy a core koala habitat:

Namoi Valley Independent reports that an approved rail loop for the Shenhua Watermark will wipe out core Koala habitat.

[Dr Valentina Mella] has carried out studies on Court Lane since 2015 and stated 25 koalas, including four breeding females, had been documented in that time, leading her to believe it should be classified as a core corridor and therefore not destroyed.

https://www.nvi.com.au/story/7168238/concerns-raised-over-core-koala-habitat-set-to-be-demolished-by-shenhua/

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-16/sydney-morning-briefing-news-new-city-at-airport/13249278

… add campaigns focus on Koalas.

Its not just NRMA, Koalas are fast becoming an advertising icon.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has launched a Sydney-wide campaign with digital panels displaying “Eating meat kills koalas”, featuring a koala clinging to a branch that becomes a fork stabbing a piece of meat alongside the message, “Australian bushland is being destroyed to make way for the animals you eat”.

A PETA ad, which depicts a koala clinging to a branch that transforms into a fork stabbing a piece of meat, is displayed on 10 billboards in five major shopping centres in the area: Bankstown Central, Broadway Sydney, Castle Towers, Macquarie Centre, and Westpoint

https://www.miragenews.com/animal-rights-group-targets-grocery-buyers-with-529487/

https://www.peta.org.au/news/koala-ad-blitz/

Australian reddit traders, r/ASX_Bets are also getting in on the action, offering koala adoption certificates with funds donated to Port Macquarie and Port Stephens Koala hospitals.

https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2021/03/aussie-reddit-traders-asx_bets_koalas-donation-adoption/

When cultural genocide affects mating:

The Guardian reports on research that shows that populations of Regent Honeyeaters have dropped to such low levels that young males no longer have adults to teach them love songs, leaving females unimpressed as they mimic other species.

The study has found that this mimicry might not be a male’s show of skill that would be attractive to a female, but could instead be a symptom of a “loss of vocal culture” that could make it harder for the birds to find a mate.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/17/how-an-endangered-australian-songbird-regent-honeyeater-is-forgetting-its-love-songs

Secret review of burnt State Forests:

The Natural Resources Commission has finally announced the long-promised review of logging in burnt State Forests, with the rider that it is to be secret:

The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces has requested the Commission through a terms of reference to provide independent, evidence-based advice on forestry operations under the coastal IFOA as the NSW public forest estate recovers from the 2019-20 bushfires.

The Commission will provide its final advice to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Indsutry and Trade, and the Minister for Energy and Environment.

The Minister has directed the Commission to provide its advice in confidence and consult with relevant agencies and subject matter experts only.

https://www.nrc.nsw.gov.au/ifoa

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the review will assess how the huge fires had affected the state’s public forests and their ability to meet supply contracts, noting:

“Have you got the right experts in the right room and got the right answers?” Professor Kingsford said. “They should be reporting on the available information openly and transparently.”

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/post-bushfire-logging-probe-to-be-conducted-out-of-public-s-scrutiny-20210315-p57axl.html

First action at Redbank

NEFA and No Electricity From Forests held their first protest at the Redbank power plant. A handful of protestors managed to get the media breakthrough in the Hunter Valley that we needed, with 2 good stories in the Singleton Argus and an interview on local ABC – well done. Our media release stated:

Representatives of community groups concerned that the highly polluting Redbank power station, near Singleton in the Hunter Valley, is to be re-opened using wood fuel, will gather at the power station gate to greet the Community (sic) Consultative (sic) Committee, scheduled to meet there on Wednesday morning.

“This project is based on totally false premises'', said Redbank Action Group spokesperson Dave Burgess. “They claim that burning more than a million tonnes of wood a year will be carbon neutral. This is patently untrue. More greenhouse gas will be released than if the power station was burning coal. Add to that the 50,000 truck movements a year coming from up to 400km away and you have a very heavily polluting project. For Hunter Energy to give it a name like “verdant” is classic greenwashing.”

The Redbank power station is owned by Hunter Energy Ltd. who are attempting to greenwash their image by changing their name to Verdant Technologies Australia Ltd. The Department of Primary Industry estimates that this scheme would require burning about 1,250,000 tonnes of trees, releasing over 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

“Not only will this power station pump massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, it will result in millions of trees being cut down to satisfy its voracious appetite,” said Tom Ferrier from No Electricity From Forests. “Those trees will include koala homes and habitat for dozens of animal species already vulnerable to extinction.”

https://www.singletonargus.com.au/story/7172095/biomass-power-rejected/

https://www.singletonargus.com.au/story/7171123/differing-views-on-the-future-power-supply/

Renewable Energy requires social licence:

Renew Economy identifies that under new legislation recently passed by the NSW parliament, the NSW government has the power to prohibit projects from connecting to the grid within a renewable energy zone where there is “significant opposition from the community in the local area” in an effort to maintain goodwill with the local community. Seems like its more of a ploy by the National Party to block those they don’t like.

https://reneweconomy.com.au/social-licence-emerges-as-critical-issue-for-renewable-energy-zones-nsw-says/

Saving and managing urban parks in a deteriorating environment:

The Conversation has an article about the now well documented health benefits of taking walks in nature, which has proven to be particularly important during the pandemic, urging planners and decision makers to include more green spaces in our towns and cities. This builds on the increasing recognition of the need for more trees in urban areas to reduce the heat island affect and keep our urban areas livable in a heating world.

https://theconversation.com/spending-time-in-nature-has-always-been-important-but-now-its-an-essential-part-of-coping-with-the-pandemic-153073?utm

https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2021/03/boost-your-mood-with-forest-bathing/

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-03-nature-important-essential-coping-pandemic.html

The Independent identifies a process for maximizing the benefits of forest bathing (though note that just a walk in a forest, or even a park, has been shown to be beneficial), and extols its benefits, referencing The Forest Bathing Institute, noting:

Research carried out by Natural England during England’s spring 2020 lockdown revealed that 85 per cent of adults reported that spending time in nature contributed to feelings of happiness, and those who had spent time in nature within the last seven days were happier than those that had not.

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/forest-bathing-trees-nature-b1818006.html

The Forest Bathing Institute cites a recent small UK study that compared Forest Bathing with Compassionate Mind Training finding:

There were improvements in positive emotions, mood disturbance, rumination, nature connection and compassion and 57% of participants showed an increase in heart rate variability.

https://tfb.institute/

https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/3/1380

BBC Travel report a German resurgence of waldeinsamkeit, an archaic German term for the feeling of "forest loneliness":

With more free time, more flexibility and more pressure at home, but also fewer alternative pastimes, Germans have sought calm, fresh air and hermit-like solitude in greater numbers than before. There is a palpable yearning – a feeling of a life being half-lived – and it has not gone unnoticed that the country's restriction-free spruce, conifer, beech, oak and birch forests are busier than ever.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20210314-waldeinsamkeit-germanys-cherished-forest-tradition

There is a worldwide trend for establishing “micro-forests” in urban areas, which can help create real community connection. One is now being planned for Canberra, with Her Canberra reporting:

“The Watson Micro-forest will provide habitat for native species, absorb carbon, and cool the local environment by up to six degrees, helping to reverse the urban heat island effect.”

“Many people want to make a difference and take action on issues like climate change and habitat loss, creating a Micro-Forest is a way that people can really see and be part of the change.”

https://hercanberra.com.au/city/community/what-is-a-micro-forest-and-why-are-they-cropping-up-around-canberra/

This comes at a time when some Councils are proposing to sell off “under-utilised” parklands. For example, as Lismore did recently, the Northern Rivers Times (March 11 2021) reports that the Richmond Valley Council is seeking community input on a proposal to sell 5 parks in Casino. Councils are now required undertake assessments of Crown lands under their control as part of its requirements to prepare plans of management. The Local Government Act 1993 requires all “Community” land to be categorised. Kempsey Council has recently released their Plan of Management for Council Managed Crown Land, noting:

Under amendments to the Crown land management system in 2018, councils in NSW now have responsibility to manage some areas of Crown land, generally in the same way that it manages its own land under the Local Government Act 1993.

https://www.kempsey.nsw.gov.au/council/meetings/2021/2021-03-16/pubs/09-02-01-council-managed-crown-land-draft-pom-combined.pdf

Saturday is World Frog Day (March 20)

Australia is home to some 230 species of frogs, sadly 37 of these are currently listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the government’s EPBC list.

https://www.fame.org.au/news-and-media/world-frog-day-20-march

https://www.nationaltribune.com.au/it-s-a-frog-s-life-world-frog-day-heralds-bumper-season-for-local-frogs/

And Sunday is International Day of Forests (March 21)

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012, this year is the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The theme of the International Day of Forests for 2021 is "Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being." The restoration and sustainable management of forests help address the climate-change and biodiversity crises. It also produces goods and services for sustainable development, fostering an economic activity that creates jobs and improves lives.

This year’s theme fits into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a call for the protection and revival of ecosystems around the world.

https://www.un.org/en/observances/forests-and-trees-day

The world is losing 10 million hectares of forest – about the size of Iceland – each year, and land degradation affects almost 2 billion hectares, an area larger than South America. Forest loss and degradation emit large quantities of climate-warming gases, and at least 8 percent of forest plants and 5 percent of forest animals are at extremely high risk of extinction. The restoration and sustainable management of forests, on the other hand, will address the climate-change and biodiversity crises simultaneously while producing goods and services needed for sustainable development. 

Small-scale planting and restoration projects can have big impacts. City greening creates cleaner air and more beautiful spaces and has huge benefits for the mental and physical health of urban dwellers. It is estimated that trees provide megacities with benefits worth USD 0.5 billion or more every year by reducing air pollution, cooling buildings and providing other services. 

http://www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests/en/

https://menafn.com/1101761940/Op-ed-for-International-Day-of-Forests-Restoring-our-forests-provides-a-path-to-recovery-and-well-being

Some countries are trying:

Climate News Network has a positive story about those countries that are planting trees on a massive scale to help us reach net zero. We are one of the worst deforesters, we need to follow others examples and become part of the solution rather than the problem.

Trees have an undeniably positive effect on the planet, absorbing from the atmosphere carbon dioxide and other climate-heating emissions produced by humans.

But care is needed. An existing forest is more effective than a new one, as mature trees are better than young ones at absorbing emissions, and are more resilient to storms and drought.

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/wales-goes-green-with-welsh-national-forest-plan/

… just not Australia:

Renew Economy reports that despite our massive expenditure a new report published by the United Nations Environment Programme has found that Australia is at the bottom of the list for directing post-Covid 19 economic stimulus towards clean, rather than polluting, options. The graphs in the report are telling.

https://reneweconomy.com.au/australia-ranked-worst-in-world-on-covid-recovery-spending-on-green-options/


Forest Media 12 March 2021

The big news this week was the resurrection of the Koala killing bill in another incarnation. Stokes and Barilaro have done a deal to limit the SEPP to DAs, exclude logging and clearing from its ambit, allow logging to over-ride provisions of Council LEPs and stop core Koala habitat being included in environmental zones. Stokes claimed it as a win, but it was roundly condemned as a cave-in to the Nationals. The loggers loved it, the farmers were unsure (mainly because they are concerned about ‘the codes’) and the Feds welcomed it. For over a year Stokes has been asking the farmers and Barilaro to come up with an alternative to protect Koalas from land-clearing and logging though they have been unwilling to put anything forward, now they are saying they will come up with codes to protect Koalas by the end of April (sure). Barilaro had his win, again. Catherine Cusack described it as a "giant leap" backwards. A poll found 71% support for the Great Koala National Park, and the Age had a nice pictorial. Given the failure of Government, NRMA are encouraging kids to take direct action to stop Koala trees being felled (no lock-ons yet).

Days of action for Koalas next weekend (20-21 February) in Murwillumbah, Lismore and Grafton.

Bellingen residents call for protection of Koalas and an end to aerial spraying of weeds. Residents of south-west rocks want wildlife protected from development. The Guardian profiles East Gippsland forest protectors. NEFA complained about Forestry’s careless clearing and damage to over 5 ha of world heritage rainforest, mostly in a national park.

NPWS install a live-cam so you can perve on a rock-wallaby colony – their sexual antics are a claimed highlight. It’s the frequent visitors that get to Broad-headed Snakes.

Hunter Energy get a boost for their forest derived liquid hydrogen with $70 million from either the State and/or Federal Governments (or both) for a Hunter export hydrogen hub. Meanwhile more reports that the world’s forests are succumbing to climate heating. COVID 19 has been a natural disaster.

The United Nations have adopted Ecosystem Accounting guidelines. Who would have thought it, our federal Government has established a trial where landowners can obtain revenue streams for storing carbon and protecting biodiversity, and they only need to do it for 25 years (presumably they can then log it). Kew Gardens have identified reforestation rules, first is protect existing forests, then highest priorities are work with local communities, restore native forests on previously forested land, and preferentially use natural regeneration.

Dailan Pugh

Koala - Kill Bill 2:

The NSW Government has resurrected their Koala killing bill under another guise announcing that they will create a new Koala SEPP 2021, whereby Core rural zones in rural areas will be decoupled from the SEPP as new codes that protect koala habitat under the Local Land Services Act are developed over the next month. “Rob Stokes said the new solution is a big step forward for the protection of koalas in NSW”, and Matt Kean “said the new solution will ensure protections for core koala habitat and colonies across NSW.

“We have ambitious plans to double koala populations in NSW by 2050 and that means we need the right policy tools in place to protect and preserve wildlife and their habitat,” Mr Kean said.

Some highlights:

  • Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management (KPOM) will be finalised to protect koala habitat in Tweed and Byron Shires.
  • Private Native Forestry (PNF) and Local Land Services (LLS) codes will be revised to ensure robust protections for koalas in areas of high value koala habitat and certainty and consistency for primary producers;
  • The Minister for Planning will issue a new section 9.1 direction to ensure that only the Minister, and not councils, will be empowered to rezone land used for primary production to an environmental zone, or to rezone land currently in rural zones 1, 2 and 3 to other rural zones;
  • At that time, dual consent provisions for PNF in local environmental plans will be removed through Koala SEPP 2021;

The ABC identifies that while they are developing the new codes “The government is yet to come to an agreement on what rules will apply to the North Coast, where some of the most important koala populations in the state live”.

The announcement was greeted by strong condemnation from Chris Gambian at the Nature Conservation Council, MLC Justin Fields, MLC Cate Faehrmann, and a range of other voices. It was a PR disaster for the Government as it was generally seen as a cave in to the Nats.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-08/nsw-coalition-strikes-deal-on-koala-policy/13227862

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/08/most-rural-land-exempt-from-new-nsw-coalition-rules-to-protect-koala-habitat

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/stokes-barilaro-agree-on-koala-policy-compromise-defusing-tensions-20210308-p578v0.html

https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2021/03/08/nsw-koala-management/

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7158371/nsw-koala-deal-will-push-them-to-brink/?cs=14231

https://7news.com.au/news/animals/barilaro-pleased-by-nsw-koala-rule-changes-c-2312826

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-09/morning-briefing-minister-defends-koala-policy/13227714

https://www.miragenews.com/nsw-government-delivers-koala-sepp-524697/

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-09/nsw-farmers-and-environmentalists-unsure-about-koala-policy/13229102

https://www.northernriversreview.com.au/story/7158371/nsw-koala-laws-not-a-diminution-stokes/

https://www.greatlakesadvocate.com.au/story/7160218/koala-policy-change-could-be-catastrophic/

https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6238117931001

NEFA attacked the intent to implement the Koala killing bill by another means, particularly focusing on the intent to allow logging to over-rule Council LEPs and taking away Council’s ability to make environmental zones. The North Coast ABC had me in debate with Chris Gulaptis and the Country Hour gave me a run, as well as NBN TV.

The Government’s intent is to allow core koala habitat to be indiscriminately logged and cleared, and to take away Council’s ability to require consent for logging, as well as their ability to create environmental zones, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“Minister Stokes’ pretence that this is somehow a big step forward for protection of Koalas is a big lie.

“Logging and clearing will in future be allowed in any core Koala habitat identified in a Koala Plan of Management

“Council’s rights to prohibit or require consent for logging through zoning or Tree Preservation Orders will be removed, instead logging will be allowed across all existing environmental zones. North coast Councils’ zoning currently prohibits logging of 167,000 ha, and requires development consent for logging over 600,000 hectares, all of which will go.

“Council’s rights to rezone rural land to an environmental zone, or even to vary the rural zoning, will be removed, with only the Planning Minister allowed to do such rezonings in future. This is specifically aimed at stopping core Koala habitat being included in environmental zones, though affects all high conservation value vegetation.

“Matt Kean’s pretence that these removals of existing protections for Koalas over most private lands ‘will ensure protections for core koala habitat and colonies across NSW’ is utter nonsense.

“This major reduction in Koala protection reveals his promise to double Koala populations by 2050 as empty rhetoric”, Mr. Pugh said.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/nsw-country-hour/nsw-country-hour/13209396

https://www.echo.net.au/downloads/byron-echo/volume-35/ByronEcho3539.pdf

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2021/03/09/many-not-happy-with-koala-sepp-2021/

Not unsurprisingly the loggers are the only ones to unreservedly welcome the changes. The final PNF logging codes have not been released yet, and Stokes is saying they will be revamped in the next month to make up for the exemption from the SEPP (and presumably local council’s controls), so the industry is making its case for no changes.

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the NSW Government’s recognition that the Private Native Forestry Codes of Practice, which regulate forestry operations on private land, already provides significant protections to koalas.

“I commend the NSW Government for listening to the forest industries on this important policy reform, and we look forward to seeing the detail of this announcement,” Mr Hampton said.

https://ausfpa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Media-Release-NSW-Governments-revised-Koala-SEPP-strikes-right-balance-for-koala-protections-and-primary-industries.pdf?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

https://www.timberbiz.com.au/forest-land-in-nsw-not-subject-to-new-state-environmental-planning/

The Leader reports that NSW Farmers are concerned about the lack of consultation and worried about what the foreshadowed future changes to land clearing and PNF rules may mean, President James Jackson stating "The deputy premier has said the new SEPP cuts red tape for farmers but we have no concrete evidence that this is the case because farmers have not been consulted on the changes,"

The Leader reports that the Federal Environment Minister, Susan Ley has welcomed the decision stating "From my observation, where there is a challenge for NSW government planning processes is in suburbs on the edge of major cities, in new residential developments, in areas where we live and where koalas like to live”.

https://www.theleader.com.au/story/7159497/ley-breathes-easier-as-nsw-agrees-on-koala-policy/?cs=9397

… estimates of Koala’s survival:

Back in September 2020 the Department of Planning was advising that “Excluding RU1 (Primary Production) and RU2 (Rural Landscape) zoned land from the SEPP would exclude more than 80% of the land in each LGA, on average, that the SEPP applies to, rendering the SEPP ineffective and koalas unprotected”.

This of course is what the Government is now doing. The Guardian reports that this advice was put to Stokes by the Greens in estimates, with Cate Faehrmann asking “How can the premier save koalas from extinction when her government’s signature policy will now not cover most of the state?

The Guardian also reports Justin Field said he was concerned with the Government’s claims that they would increase protection for Koalas in the PNF codes, stating:

“The public are being asked to believe that the National party, who have railed against regulation on rural land to protect koalas, will now work collaboratively to develop a new private logging code to do just that,”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/10/nsw-planning-minister-warned-against-exempting-rural-land-from-koala-protections

https://www.braidwoodtimes.com.au/story/7158371/nsw-koala-laws-not-a-diminution-stokes/

In estimates on 9 March 2021 Planning Minister Rob Stokes and his department were given a grilling over the Koala SEPP announcement the day before.  They did an effective job of avoiding most questions, The Chair was Cate Faehrmann. Some highlights are presented below:

The Government is saying that the new SEPP 2021`will only apply to Development Applications (and that eventually logging and clearing will not require DAs), though there will be a transition period during which SEPP 2020 (nee SEPP 44), with just 10 Koala feed tree species, will apply to rural zoned lands. They are saying that new land clearing and logging codes will be developed by April and once they are in place then SEPP 2021 will apply to DAs on all lands. Reading through the released documents it is clear that Stokes had long offered to “decouple” the SEPP from the Local Land Services Act if the Nationals put forward an alternative means of protecting Koalas, but they never did.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: Minister, under this new regime is it not the case that farmers will be able to clear and then sell to developers? Is this not the problem that you were trying to address previously?

Mr ROB STOKES: In relation to those areas where SEPP44 will continue to apply, SEPP 44 will continue to apply until such time as a new code is developed—I think the timeline is provided there in the media release; I think it is April, that we are seeing to conclude that by—and that will be by concurrence with the environment Minister. A lot of the concern that has been expressed by members of the Committee and members of the community at large, are that the codes, as they stand, are not sufficiently robust. This is an opportunity, this is a trigger to address those concerns. Absolutely the codes will need to be robust, and that will have to be to the satisfaction of the environment Minister and also generally of government. I think this sets a context to not only increase protections over the vast majority of areas, we are developing a trigger to improve koala protections in the balance of areas as well.

Mr JUSTIN FIELD: Thank you. Minister, you seem to be putting a lot of stock into SEPP 44 remaining in place until such time there is a review of the codes. I assume we are explicitly talking about the PNF code, correct? Why do you have so much confidence, with the National Party in charge of the PNF code review, that that outcome is going to be one that is better for koalas and for the protection of koala habitat than what we have currently got?

Mr ROB STOKES: Well, certainly, if it is not then SEPP 44 will remain in place.

The Hon. MARK PEARSON: On private land, with this apparently new code of practice that is going to be in place, where there is koala habitat or potentially koala habitat, who is going to assess as to whether there are koalas living there or koalas relying on those trees for feed? Who is going to do the assessment before the clearing commences?

Mr ROB STOKES: As I have indicated, SEPP 44 continues to apply in those areas unless and until—it is clear the intention of the announcement is to develop a new code.

Mr RAY: In relation to the koala SEPP 2021, the proposed SEPP 2021, the activities that have been the subject of the media release are the activities that can be carried out under the Local Land Services code and under private native forestry. To the extent that they are the activities that can be carried out, they will still be the activities that can be carried out under any revised codes. We are talking about those farming activities, we are talking about that private native forestry. If the codes are made with the robust protections that Minister Stokes spoke—

The Hon. MARK PEARSON: The code will be critical in capturing that?

Mr RAY: Yes, that is the case. The robust protections that Minister Stokes spoke about in those two codes, if Government were satisfied about those things, then that would then enable the removal of those development consent provisions relating to private native forestry.

Rob Stokes avoided answering questions relating the intent to allow logging to over-ride Council’s Local Environmental Plans (including environment zones and Tree Preservation Orders), and pretended that his taking decisions on rezoning to environmental zones off councils was nothing new – he wouldn’t admit it was a deal he did with the Nationals to stop core Koala habitat being zoned for protection. There was no denial, just obfuscation. In all the Government’s documents the Nationals intent to over-ride Council’s LEPs didn’t surface until they released their Koala killing bill.

The CHAIR: Minister, if you ask councils about this—I have a number of submissions before me now from various councils that came to the koala inquiry, which I chaired and this Committee inquired into, that talk about how important it is for councils to have the ability to be able to consent to private native forestry [PNF]. We have councils that have undertaken really strong efforts for a couple of decades to protect lands from clearing and logging. They are incredibly disturbed by this. Are you aware of that? It is not about streamlining, as you say; it is actually about overriding decades of councils' efforts to protect koala habitat in their area. That is what you have done.

The CHAIR: I have a media release in front of me from the North East Forest Alliance, which states that "North Coast Council zoning currently prohibits logging of 167,000 hectares and requires development consent for logging over 600,000 hectares, all of which will go." Is that a correct statement?

Mr ROB STOKES: Again, I would have to take that—I can refer through to the Secretary. I have taken a few of these on the technical details. I might refer you to the Secretary

Ms CATE FAEHRMANN: … why have you, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, issued a new section 9.1 direction to ensure that only the Minister and not councils will be empowered to rezone land use for primary production to an environmental zone, or to rezone land currently in rural zones 1, 2 and 3 to other rural zones. ...

Mr ROB STOKES: Well, certainly I am not about removing the ability to create E zones or to change rural use zones. I am merely restating, which is in fact already the case, that before councils can change any zone it has to be approved by the Minister for planning. And I would invite—I would use the occasion of this Committee—to invite councils, if they have specific land where they would like to change a zoning, by all means come and talk to me about it. On the basis of the proper process and proper exhibition and proper studies, then of course I would be happy to consider that. Any suggestion that I am not open to considering or making environmental zones—well, again, I would point you to the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan. I am well aware of how fraught the process of environmental zoning is but I am also aware that it is a valuable tool and, where it is necessary, it should be used.

The Government has been making much of the decision to finally go ahead and approve the Tweed and Byron Coastal Koala PoMs after 6-5 years delay, pretending that somehow this exempts them from the worst aspects of the announcement (it doesn’t). And the fact they were preparing a new SEPP didn’t stop them approving Ballina’s KPoM. They had repeatedly claimed that making the new SEPP would allow them to approve 5 outstanding
KPoMs, what happened to the other 3?

Mr ROB STOKES: I will take it on notice. What I can say, and I need to clarify: I did not say that those koala plans of management for Byron and Tweed had been approved. It now clears the way for them to be approved. They were held in abeyance until this matter could be resolved, that is my understanding.

The CHAIR: Until what matter could be resolved?

Mr ROB STOKES: Until the matter of reintroducing the new SEPP could done, these koala plans of management could not be concluded.

Cate Faehrmann was perplexed as to why Rob Stokes didn’t take into account EEC’s advice to rank the 123 feed trees by their relative importance and reflect this in their protection. David Scotts, who prepared the list had submitted in March 2020 “It was never the intent that the list be transferred to the SEPP without the embedded prioritised classes included … THIS IS A FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM WITH THE SEPP AND GUIDELINE WHICH WILLLEAD TO SIGNIFICANT ISSUES IN KOALA CONSERVATION AND REGULATION”.

The CHAIR: To delve into the detail a little bit further, there is input here by EES that suggests—it kind of looks like they are trying to come up with some kind of a solution or a compromise around the koala feed trees. They have put forward ranking the koala feed trees one, two, three and four, into regionally—this, I think, has been done in the past. One is that it is regionally high use; it is a strong preferred koala tree. Two is local high use within a single koala management area, three is an irregular use tree and four is a low use tree. What happened to that recommendation from EES?

The CHAIR: Yes. I understand what you are saying. The ranking, however, does suggest that basically there could be core koala habitat, for example, defined where it then says that allowable activities are restricted, and then, say, low value koala habitat or medium value koala habitat if it has got 15 per cent or more of canopy, say, and no record of koala presence, the full suite of allowable activities could occur. That was what was recommended. This was a compromise to what was originally announced, wasn't it? This was a compromise to the SEPP that was in place at the beginning of last year.

Mr RAY: Yes. What Environment, Energy and Science are doing here is explaining to us and providing advice about how the 123 trees are made up. They have got these four categories of regionally high use, local high use, irregular use tree and a low use tree. They were providing advice about certain activities that could take place given the different status and the different importance of these four different rankings of trees in relation to koala habitat.

The CHAIR: It does sound like a better compromise, and it seems that it was hastily rejected. But this sounds like it could have been a compromise to what was going on. Just have a look at prioritising the trees, if you like, a little bit more than maybe what they were 18 months ago to still ensure that some of the really core koala habitat—the really critical trees that are much more preferred by koalas—are still protected. Was that considered by government? I have seen some of the lobbying letters by Timber NSW. I have seen some of the lobbying letters by NSW Farmers. They are all, of course, saying, "Get off our property, get off our land. We do not want any koala protection on rural lands." This seems like a decent compromise but it sounds like it was rejected outright.

Mr BETTS: Why do you say that?

The CHAIR: I say that because it says here from the Minister:

It is entirely counterproductive and not what we asked for. Just spoke with Marcus and Danijela and their view was the same.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2536/Transcript%20-%20Tuesday%209%20March%202021%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC7%20-%20Planning%20and%20Public%20Spaces%20-%20Stokes.pdf

According to the Sydney Morning Herald the Berejiklian-Barilaro relationship has never recovered from his threat to walk away from the coalition over Koalas, and while many hoped he would resign, he is here to stay. His position now being bolstered by his deal with Stokes. It is interesting that Barilaro told his party of the deal before it was announced, but Stokes didn’t.

It seems that nobody in the Government knows the detail of the Stokes-Barilaro-Kean deal beyond their media release.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/john-barilaro-reinvents-himself-after-koala-showdown-20210310-p579i1.html

… Catherine Cusack speaks out again:

North coast ABC ran an interview with Catherine Cusack where she slams the new Koala SEPP.

 A New South Wales Liberal MLC says the government's latest koala-protection policy is a "giant leap" backwards for much of the state.

"But as far as the other 80 per cent of koala habitat, which is on private land, the government is basically going to remove controls by the Planning Minister, the Environment Minister, and by local councils.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-11/catherine-cusack-slams-nsw-coalition-koala-protection-plan/1323761

… day of action for Koalas:

The Northern Rivers Guardians are going a day early with a rally in Murwillumbah Saturday week. Another action is planned for Grafton on Sunday 21 March, and actions will also take place in Sydney.

The Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG) are holding a peaceful gathering as part of the #SaveOurKoalas National Day of Action at Knox Park Murwillumbah between 10 to 11 AM on Saturday the 20th of March.

Scott Sledge, NRG's President confirmed, “Never before has it been so urgent for those living in the Northern Rivers and across NSW to come together to raise the pressing plight of our endangered NSW koalas. If we want a NSW future to include our precious and iconic koalas, we must demonstrate a strong, united and unwavering pubic presence and pressure. Everyone, regardless of age or political views has an important role to play, and we need active participation or our koalas will become extinct. Tragically, the current koala status is that black and white and straightforward.”

https://www.echo.net.au/2021/03/tweed-voters-call-on-geoff-provest-to-help-save-koalas/

… 71% of people want a Great Koala National Park:

Sue Arnold identifies that a poll of 1,009 respondents for Australians for Animals found 71.4 per cent supported the creation of the Great Koala National Park. Sue covers Koalas, Redbank and NRC’s forest monitoring.

https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/weak-environmental-protection-laws-leave-koalas-stranded,14865

… picturing the park:

The Age has a great pictorial on the Great Koala National Park.

https://www.theage.com.au/national/nsw/the-great-koala-debate-20210312-h1uiy3.html

… where Governments fail, companies encourage kids to engage in direct action:

The NRMA have gone a step further with their Koala adds, this time glorifying direct action in the form of kids interfering with trees marked for logging. What is the world coming to? The NRMA attribute their Koala adds so far as being a huge success, boosting their brand and winning awards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfbhbRpXyuo&t=3s

https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/au/news/breaking-news/nrma-doubles-down-on-awardwinning-campaign-every-home-is-worth-protecting-248901.aspx

Bellingen residents stand up for forests:

News of the Area reports that 150 people met in Bellingen and unanimously agreed to call on the NSW Government to instruct Forestry Corporation NSW to stop logging prime koala habitat and ask Forestry Corporation to stop aerial spraying of weeds in state forests in the area.

https://www.newsofthearea.com.au/bellingen-residents-and-environmentalists-unite-to-protect-local-forests-at-town-meeting-65733

… as do residents of South West Rocks:

The Macleay Argus reports that residents gathered to voice their concern over loss of wildlife habitat due to development … [then it’s a paywall].

https://www.macleayargus.com.au/story/7152714/residents-rally-to-raise-concerns-over-the-loss-of-bushland-at-south-west-rocks/?cs=1526

Why Blockade:

The Guardian has a series of profiles of forest protectors at Errinundra in East Gippsland.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/feb/28/last-of-the-large-trees-a-day-at-the-errinundra-forest-blockade

Forestry Corp clear rainforest in a National Park:

After a tip-off I did an audit for NEFA of the Forestry Corporation’s widening of a track through rainforest around a Hoop Pine plantation west of Urbenville (in the upper Clarence River valley), documenting the clearing and damage to 5-6 hectares of world heritage quality rainforest, mostly in the Tooloom National Park, in a callous and indiscriminate act of vandalism. This was apparently done during the fires in December 2019.

The Forestry Corporation’s bulldozing of whole trees out of the ground into the rainforest was reckless and indiscriminate vandalism, it caused immense damage to rainforest assessed as being of world heritage value in a national park, those responsible must be held to account and the rainforest rehabilitated, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

This was covered by ABC North Coast, with an interview with Dailan Pugh on 8 March and a follow-up interview with Rob Kooyman on 10 March.

Perving on Rock Wallabies:

The NPWS have placed a camera near a colony of around 10 brush-tailed rock-wallabies in the Green Gully area of Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and now live-stream all the action.

https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/brush-tailed-rock-wallaby-cam

https://www.nationaltribune.com.au/brush-tailed-rock-wallaby-cam-more-captivating-than-kardashians/

Endangered broad-headed snakes endangered by pet trade:

A study in Morton National Park compared populations of broad headed snakes at sites with open access compared to sites with locked gated-access. Disturbed rocks were easily identified because aside from being displaced or overturned, they often had the remains of squashed invertebrates or vertebrates (lizards and frogs) beneath them. The findings were that pet collection is a threat to their survival:

Long-term data revealed that annual survival rates of snakes were significantly lower in the ungated population than the gated population, consistent with the hypothesis of human removal of snakes for the pet trade. Population viability analysis showed that the ungated population has a strongly negative population growth rate and is only prevented from ultimate extinction by dispersal of small numbers of individuals from the gated population. Sensitivity analyses showed that the removal of a small number of adult females was sufficient to impose negative population growth and suggests that threatened species with slow life histories are likely to be especially vulnerable to illegal collecting.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-84745-1

Hunter Energy get another boost:

Following Hunter Energy’s announcement that they intend to use their Redbank power station, rebooted with over a million tonnes of native forests, to generate liquid hydrogen the NSW Government has announced that they are committing $70 million to make the Hunter into the State's first green hydrogen hub.

The Hunter is set to become the home of one of the State's first green hydrogen hubs with the NSW Government committing at least $70 million to their development.

Energy Minister Matt Kean said the Hunter is a key site for these developments due to its access to existing energy infrastructure, sustainable water sources, ports and logistics capabilities and a future supply of cheap, reliable renewable energy.

Developing green hydrogen hubs aligns with planned NSW Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) under the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, ensuring they become thriving business precincts.

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/news/hunter-hydrogen-hub-to-drive-jobs?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

https://www.miragenews.com/hunter-hydrogen-hub-to-drive-jobs-investment-527209/

The Guardian reports that the Federal Government will overhaul Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) mandate so there will be less investment in solar and wind, and more focus on investment in hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, microgrids and energy efficiency. Noting the federal government will also continue to plough more taxpayer funds into carbon capture and storage through a $50m fund, while $70.2m will be allocated for an export hydrogen hub.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/sep/17/coalition-to-divert-renewable-energy-funding-away-from-wind-and-solar

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/coal-plant-closures-loom-large-as-nsw-backs-hydrogen-for-the-hunter-20210311-p579t7.html

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7162869/hunter-selected-as-a-hydrogen-hub/

Forests succumbing to climate heating:

The Guardian has a truly frightening article tying together the increasing death of the world’s forests, particularly in America, with many unable to regenerate due to climate heating. A story worth reading,

Forests cover 30% of the planet’s land surface, and yet, as humans heat the atmosphere, some locations where they would have grown now appear too dry or hot to support them.

In western North America, huge swaths of forested areas may become unsuitable for trees owing to climate change, say researchers. In the Rocky Mountains, estimates hold that by 2050, about 15% of the forests would not grow back if felled by fire because the climate would no longer suit them. In Alberta, Canada, about half of existing forests could vanish by 2100. In the south-western US, which is experiencing a “megadrought”, as much as 30% of forests are at risk of converting to shrubland or another kind of ecosystem.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/10/is-this-the-end-of-forests-as-weve-known-them

Valuing nature:

Nature has an editorial that the united Nations have adopted a set of principles for measuring ecosystem health and calculating a monetary value which creates a route to protecting Earth’s endangered regions.

Last week, however, countries took a giant step towards enabling public authorities to put a value on their environment. At its annual meeting, the United Nations Statistical Commission — whose members are responsible for setting and verifying standards for official statistics in their countries — laid out a set of principles for measuring ecosystem health and calculating a monetary value. These principles, known as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA), are set to be adopted by many countries on 11 March.

Once adopted, they will give national statisticians an internationally agreed rule book. It will provide a template for payments for ecosystem services … and an official benchmark against which the condition of ecosystems can be judged by policymakers and researchers over time.

… UN chief economist Elliot Harris rightly called the new principles a game changer. “The economy needs a bailout, but so does nature,” he said. “What we measure, we value, and what we value, we manage.” Momentum on valuing ecosystem services is now unstoppable, and that is a good thing.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00616-9?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=69702ba899-briefing-dy-20210311&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-69702ba899-46198454

The SEEA EA is built on five core accounts. These accounts are compiled using spatially explicit data and information about the functions of ecosystem assets and the ecosystem services they produce.

The five ecosystem accounts are:

  1. ECOSYSTEM EXTENT accounts record the total area of each ecosystem, classified by type within a specified area (ecosystem accounting area). Ecosystem extent accounts are measured over time in ecosystem accounting areas (e.g., nation, province, river basin, protected area, etc.) by ecosystem type, thus illustrating the changes in extent from one ecosystem type to another over the accounting period.
  2. ECOSYSTEM CONDITION accounts record the condition of ecosystem assets in terms of selected characteristics at specific points in time. Over time, they record the changes to their condition and provide valuable information on the health of ecosystems.
  3. & 4. ECOSYSTEM SERVICES flow accounts (physical and monetary) record the supply of ecosystem services by ecosystem assets and the use of those services by economic units, including households.
  4. MONETARY ECOSYSTEM ASSET accounts record information on stocks and changes in stocks (additions and reductions) of ecosystem assets. This includes accounting for ecosystem degradation and enhancement.

https://seea.un.org/ecosystem-accounting

… incentivising conservation:

The Federal Government has established a ‘Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot’ whereby farmers who plant native trees – in line with a biodiversity protocol developed by the ANU – will receive payments for biodiversity outcomes, in addition to earnings a landholder might receive for their carbon abatement. Plantings will only need to be retained for 25 years. It will be run in six Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions Australia wide, including Central West in NSW.

The Weekly Times reports ANU professor Andrew Macintosh as stating  

“What we’ve designed is making this a commercial proposition to farmers so they can actually look at environmental planting as a commercial proposition that competes with their other alternative land uses,”

“This is the first time I know of in the world where a program has been trialled that provides two completely separate revenue streams for carbon and then also for biodiversity.”

https://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/natural-resources/landcare/sustaining-future-australian-farming/carbon-biodiversity-pilot

https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/farmers-will-be-paid-to-plant-trees-under-carbondiversity-pilot/news-story/b8be073c1ea1c2e7f117878c042ff3c2?btr=c41264e56a6639f2c388138972b7bd6c

… while favouring protection and natural regeneration:

CAN has a lengthy article about tree planting, concluding that “Tree planting is an undoubtedly valuable solution to mitigate climate change, but reforestation cannot be a cure-all. It must be combined with efforts to protect existing forests, tackling the root causes of deforestation and cutting carbon emissions at source”.  It places reliance on Kew Gardens’ 10 golden rules for reforestation:

1. Protect existing forest first

It can take over 100 years for these forests to recover, so it is crucial that we protect what we already have before planting more.

To conserve existing forests, governments and corporations should create and enforce more protected areas and legislate against deforestation. At the same time, local efforts could focus on tackling the drivers of deforestation, including fires and overgrazing by livestock.

2. Work with local people

Not only does working with local people encourage successful, long-term outcomes for a project, but it also benefits the community by creating employment in land preparation, tree planting, and forest maintenance, and providing opportunities to develop sustainable forest-based enterprises.

3. Maximize biodiversity recovery to meet multiple goals

Long-term restoration of native forests and re-establishing what was there before is far better for recovering biodiversity than just planting fast-growing, cultivated trees.

Restoring native forests also captures more carbon, boosts ecosystem services (such as flood prevention) and economically benefits the community by providing a range of livelihood opportunities, such as sustainably-harvested forest products and ecotourism.

4. Select the right area for reforestation

The best place to plant trees is on land which was previously forested. Non-forested lands like grasslands or wetlands already contribute to capturing carbon, mostly in the soil, so should be avoided.

5. Use natural forest restoration wherever possible

Natural regeneration – natural forest regrowth after land is abandoned, or within a degraded forest – can be cheaper and more effective than tree planting.

Carbon capture can be 40 times greater in naturally regenerated areas than in plantations.

This natural approach works best on lightly degraded sites or those close to existing forests that can serve as a source of seeds

6. Select tree species that maximise biodiversity

Planting should be done using a mix of species, including as many natives as possible, as well as rare and endangered species where feasible.

7. Use resilient tree species that can adapt to a changing climate

It is important to use tree seeds or seedlings with appropriate levels of genetic diversity to match the region they are planted in and make them suitable for the local or projected climate.

8. Plan ahead

9. Learn by doing

10. Make it pay

https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/10-golden-rules-for-reforestation

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/planting-trees-safe-climate-change-action-benefits-environment-14288014

COVID 19 a natural disaster:

The Conversation reports that COVID 19 has dramatically cut tourism and its funding for communities and policing of the environment, leading to increased poaching and resource extraction.

Conservation is often funded by tourism dollars – particularly in developing nations. In many cases, the dramatic tourism downturn brought on by the pandemic meant funds for conservation were cut. Anti-poaching operations and endangered species programs were among those affected.

This dwindling of conservation efforts during COVID is sadly ironic. The destruction of nature is directly linked to zoonotic diseases, and avoiding habitat loss is a cost-effective way to prevent pandemics.

The findings are contained in a special issue of PARKS, …

In more bad news, governments of at least 22 countries used the pandemic as a reason to weaken environmental protections for protected and conserved areas, or cut their budgets.

The pandemic shows the potentially devastating outcomes when animals and humans are forced into closer contact in shrinking habitats – for example, as a result of forest destruction.

… As the special issue’s co-editors argue, if COVID-19 is not enough to make humanity wake up to the “suicidal consequences” of misguided development, then how will future calamities be avoided?

https://theconversation.com/covid-19-wasnt-just-a-disaster-for-humanity-new-research-shows-nature-suffered-greatly-too-156838?utm


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