Tasmanian Times


Preserving old-growth forests is vital to saving the planet


SO WHERE are the world’s most carbon-rich forests? Not the tropical rainforests of the Amazon, Borneo or Africa’s Congo Basin, according to research by the Australian National University. They are the tall, old-growth mountain ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands — a 90-minute drive east of Melbourne.
The researchers studied 132 forests from around the world to discover the regions that stored the most carbon. Their findings, published in the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most-cited scientific serials, is a surprise because conventional wisdom says that tropical forests store the most carbon.

So why our forests? The conditions are perfect. These forests occur at a confluence of environmental conditions that lead to high rates of plant growth and, because they are cooler, decay rates are slower. In short they grow fast but decay slowly. And they are very old — at least 350 years, growing dense heavy wood. That’s important because the amount of carbon stored is due to volume and density. Also, these trees have not been subjected to logging.

The problem is, these very same forest types are being intensively logged for woodchips, mostly bound for Japan. These trees are not only the best at producing carbon; unfortunately for them, they are also some of the best for producing high-quality paper. To add insult to injury, several of Melbourne’s water catchments are among those logged.

ANU science shows that for as long as these forests are logged, their carbon-carrying capacity is reduced by up to 60 per cent, not to mention the emissions from logging and post-logging regeneration burns. If we stopped logging all the forests of south-eastern Australia, and we now have enough wood in plantations to do that, we would avoid emissions equal to 24 per cent of the 2005 Australian net greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors.

Ironically, the plantation-based timber industry is under great economic stress, with several major wood plantation growers in receivership. This is the right time for Premier John Brumby to develop an integrated industry rescue and climate package, which creates green jobs in the plantation sector and focuses management of our native forests on emissions. Read more here

Gavan McFadzean is the Wilderness Society Victorian campaigns manager.

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  1. Anthony Amis

    August 7, 2009 at 2:56 am

    Pity Gavan McFadzean hasn’t informed readers of this site about his support of logging of sites of national conservation significance in the Strzelecki Ranges, south east of Melbourne. These sites are Mountain Ash surrounding cool temperate rainforest. McFadzean publicly supported the clearfelling of 1500ha of these ‘carbon sinks’ in May 2008. One year later he is still supporting the deal, which marks an historic moment for The Wilderness Society. Apparently for the first time in their history, TWS are supporting logging of sites of national conservation significance! If the Ash forests of the Central Highlands are so important, what about the ash forests of the Strzelecki Ranges? When are people going to wake up to TWS and their debacle in supporting clearfelling forests which the local community has worked tirelessly to protect for the past decade!

    You can read all about it at this webpage:

  2. Rod

    June 23, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Woodworker, we can withstand phenomenal damage to employment, the economy and industry. What we can not survive is phenomenal damage to the environment. When will you idiots wake up.

  3. smile_for_change

    June 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Truth can be painful George #1, especially if the good Doctor’s diagnosis keep telling you to you change your lifestyle or cop the consequences.

    Truth can be painful George, especially if the Doctor diagnosis suggests to you change your lifestyle or cop the consequences.
    In this case however you are not simply the only one who cops the consequences from the greedy, woodchip driven dinosaur industry.

    In the meantime, I smile for change because you and your likeminded mates have just about run your game.
    Soon THE MERCURY ‘s Chief Reporter can write under a big fat heading: “GAME OVER for George & Associates”.

  4. William Boeder

    June 23, 2009 at 4:45 am


    Can you tell the people on this web-site what drives your type of people to avidly relish the cutting down of our Old Growth Forests?
    Yet I would guess that your people do not like cutting down plantation forests anywhere near as much because it lacks the unique vibrancy and ambience of being out there in the lap of Natures wonderland?
    Then of course you immediately go about flattening the whole dang lot!
    I would like to think that the sheer volume of plantations now in Tasmania must surely be adequate for the huge maws of your predominately woodchip industry by now?
    Then Woodworker, you might tell the readers here as to why both forestry entities are so constant in their issue of misleading statements, of unqualified statements, along with contradicting and conflicting reports on the practices actually engaged in by the above-said forestry entities?

    Nowe we enter into the actual dollar value benefits to Tasmania, though this topic as a whole, is still in earnest dispute, particularly after the Felminham report, which purposely stated that in doing everything that Forestry Tasmania enters into, is thus to be thought so invaluable to the greater good of Tasmania.
    Many readers are still engaged in trying to accurately decipher the statements of Bruce Felminham and co, as to the value created from each and every subsidy dollar as is given freely by governments who are known for thier laxity and ambivalence in properly accounting to the taxpayer, of just what the hell they are up to?

    Now we come to the ongoing purposeful clear-felling decimation of all upper canopy trees, then of the destiny of the remaining middle canopy and remnant growth also flattened within each allotted coupe, how does this give benefit back to the naturalness of this once proud and stately region of native and Old growth forested splendor?
    From what I can understand of the negatives of ancient and native forest decimations, there is no sensible qualification to continuing the grand-scale destruction of so much of the peoples forests just for the purposes of wanting to continue as in the years past.
    This done merely to promote the salaries of the many overpaid and over-promoted red-neck management teams of each forestry entity, otherwise no true purpose or benefit to the State and its realms of people is seen to be achieved.
    Do note I have not mentioned the further negative and provocative actions that result in the defiling of waterways, the slaughter of wildlife and the blasting of toxic chemicals here there and every where.

  5. George Harris aka woodworker

    June 22, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    This is bullshit. As at this minute the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most-cited scientific serials, has not published the findings on the ANU study. The ABC science website also made the same false claim, but has altered their site to correct the error once it was pointed out to them.
    Will the Wilderness Society apologize? After all they are a major partner in the ANU Fenner School’s Wild Country Hub that has conveniently issued a media release, just when the Greens are negotiating with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, and demanding an end to all logging in Australia’ native forests.
    And just how accurate are the claims made by this green spin doctor? We can only guess until their research is released. In the meantime, they are seeking to use it to wreak phenomenal damage to employment, the economy and industry.

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