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Plantations

straight to the FN Plantation Policy

We call for thoughtful, respectful and ecologically sustainable management for all of this planets landscapes. In terms of plantations, we feel it is imperative to address: the destruction and alienation of natural systems; extensive reliance on and use of chemicals in the form of herbicides and pesticides; negative impacts on soil nutrition, salinity, groundwater, streams and estuaries ; negative impacts on attendant and connected ecological systems; human health impacts and impacts of industrial scale plantations on rural communities. At best plantations can only be viewed as an interim solution to forest destruction as they reflect a human centred monopoly of land use. Timber and paper consumption should be defined natures capacity to provide not our capacity to consume.

Wherever possible we advocate the restoration and maintenance of natural systems. We acknowledge that it is not feasible, at this time, to 'ban' plantations but we can certainly apply more stringent management practices that minimise harmful effects and ensure that, in the future, exotic broadacre monocultures are phased out. During the transition phase plantations should be replanted primarily with mixed indigenous species.

More details on the alternative vision page and below

We do not believe that plantations are the solution to the destruction of forests. We do, however, believe that they are another environmental catastrophe in the making.

Our views may well conflict with economic orthodoxies but we would rather subscribe to the physical reality of a finite planet than abstract and speculative theorems that justify excessive consumerism and materialism.

The web links below provide ample evidence as to why plantations should not be viewed as a solution to the wood and pulp consumption/production crisis faced by humanity.

NEW - Plantations through local eyes - Part 1 - Part 2 - Landowners have allowed us to reproduce the documents they submitted as an objection to a plantation.

Plantations may do more harm than good, says CSIRO

Plantation impacts on water catchments and water supply.

Hancock Insurance

Australian Paper Watch

Channel Nine Sunday program report on human impacts from spraying plantations

Crop spraying is health risk, say scientists

Scammell report on Tasmanian Plantations

Feb. 2002, Mt. Tassie, Traralgon Ck. catchment. Grand Ridge Plantations p/l (Hancock) Cable logged. Note road at lower left.

Is it any wonder that the Gippsland Lakes are filling with sediment and toxins?

The global forest plantation estate has increased from 17.8 million/hectares in 1980 and 43.6 m/h's in 1990 to 187 m/h's in 2000. Plantations are now considered to be forest by FAO. Source.: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, FAO

Forest Networks Plantation Policy

Our preferred position is that once existing plantations have been harvested the area should not be replanted with exotic monocultures but should instead be reforested with indigenous species and allowed to revert, or carry similar characteristics in composition and structure, to native forest.

In light of current political and economic circumstances we recognise that this position is not entirely practical so, in the interest of pragmatism and compromise, we advocate the following plantation management practices and interim measures:

We would like to see the area of the plantation estate dedicated to conservation and ecological restoration increased incrementally. This will require law reform in regard to plantation and forest management on private land. Ultimately, for plantations over 5 hectares, 35% of the area would be dedicated to indigenous vegetation.

The proportion of indigenous vegetation could be increased as other more sustainable production sources come on line .e.g. agroforests/forest restoration on farms/rivers etc. The initial goal would be to re-instate vegetation in riparian zones and drainage lines. Ephemeral streams would be protected by 40 metre buffer strips while permanent waterways would receive 100+ metre buffer strips.

The restored native forest would result in buffer strips that would allow indigenous ecological systems to fulfill their biological potential. For example, habitat creation that would allow plant and animal movement etc.

After this goal is met, another thirty per cent of the plantation base should be transformed into multiple use restored forest. Some trees would grow old and die, thereby providing habitat hollows etc, while others would be cut for firewood, pulp and sawlogs.

The remaining thirty five per cent could, theoretically, be managed to produce specialist timber products such as exotic species in perpetuity.

Chemical and fertiliser use in timber and fibre production should be banned immediately.

Landholders &/or plantation managers would assume responsibilty for removing wildlings (self sown exotic species that colonise the adjacent indigenous vegetation).

Ideally, where plantations have been based on exotic species they should be converted back to indigenous species with a long term aim of reinstating all natural systems. A specific model and timeframe for this transition process would need more development.

Some may want to argue for the benefits of a highly capitalised and mechanised industry built around large volumes from intensively managed exotic monocultures. The purpose of our proposals would be to re-instate natural systems where practicable and not aspire to unrealistic and unsustainable economies of scale in timber production.

We also aim to empower local communities by supporting a vision and struggle for ecologically, socially and economically sustainable systems of production.

How can a plantation like this be "good for the environment"?

More on plantation management issues here

FURTHER INFORMATION (from NEFA)

Quotes from a number of scientific papers presented at a workshop on plantations, farm forestry and water in July 2000 are provided below to elucidate the water impacts associated with plantations and why that represents a potential problem to the environment.

Young trees use more water than old trees.  They also use considerably more water than understorey shrubs.  Therefore, they result in less water being made available to streams and to the environment.  This is the reason why logging is recognised as having a major impact on water yields - because of the thirstiness of the young trees that regenerate after logging.  It is the very reason why communities object to logging in their water catchments.

Maintaining a heavy stocking of young trees is the worst possible water outcome.  It is worse than both cleared land and oldgrowth forest. However, that is exactly what plantations do - they keep a continuous cycle of trees at about 30 years of age.  This is a relatively unnatural condition.

However, a natural regeneration sequence of grasses and shrubs to an eventual oldgrowth or mixed age condition of tree species, will result in a much better water outcome for the environment and the community. It also avoids the other detrimental impacts of intensive plantation forestry such as heavy roading, chemical use and soil erosion.

"Three scenarios of reforestation covering 2% to 10% of the upper Macquarie catchment decreased [stream] flows by 4% to 17%.  Under climate change, these reductions were mainly additive, suggesting that the joint effect of reforestation and climate change further increased the risk to streamflow"  Jones, Whelton, Walsh & Page, CSIRO 2002.

"The afforestation of agricultural and pastoral areas, if conducted on a sufficiently broad scale, will profoundly influence the hydrology of catchments.  Principal amongst the consequences will be reduced water yields and reduced groundwater recharge, though changes in the seasonal distribution of run-off, the timing and magnitude of peak flows and the persistence of low flows can be expected" (Vertessy 2000).

"Field observations also show that low flows will reduce after afforestation, raising water supply issues for catchments with variable rainfall and/or tightly allocated flows.  Streams that have become perennial since post-settlement land clearance are likely to return to intermittent-flow states following afforestation" (Vertessy 2000)

"Fully stocked stands of trees will use more water from that unit of land than any other kind of vegetation..The principal hydrological issue associated with tree planting in wetter catchments is reduction in fresh streamflow or fresh groundwater recharge.." (Hatton & George 2000).

"Regional-scale planting of large areas to trees in [water supply] catchments may be counterproductive and needs caution.  Trees located in the highest rainfall areas may reduce the flow from zones that usually produce the highest volumes of fresh water that in turn dilutes the saltier water arising from further down in the catchment" (Hatton & George 2000).

"The concerns about the current rate of afforestation cover social, economic and environmental issues, including (Hopton, Schmidt & Stadter): Interception of rainfall and reduced stream flow, and threats to riverine and estuarine ecosystems Lower chance of local or regional inundation, threatening the survival of ephemeral swamps and semi-permanent to permanent wetlands Lowering of regional water tables, affecting aquatic ecosystems and requiring re-equipping of bores Weed invasion of local native vegetation communities Impacts of large volumes of traffic on the local road network"

"The amount of water made available for distribution among water allocation licensees has been adjusted down to account for the very small or nil recharge beneath plantation forests" (Hopton, Schmidt & Stadter)

"Revegetation appears to be an attractive options for meeting [salinity] targets, but it needs to be well designed and strategically targeted to minimise unintended impacts on surface water flow and river salinity. The net effect of large-scale plantation forestry in the high-rainfall upper catchment could be negative in the short-term because of the loss of dilution flows" Powell 2000

"Preliminary results of sub-regional-scale modelling suggest that large-scale revegetation for salinity management may have unintended negative effects on river salinity and flow unless it is carefully targeted to strategic locations in the landscape" Powell 2000

"While increased tree plantings may provide benefits in the management of dryland salinity and water quality, there are potential negative effects associated with reduced water yields and river flows" Riddiford 2000

"Water yields in a regrowth forest were found to increase initially and then to decline below pre-treatment levels during the 16 year period which followed the logging of a moist old-growth eucalypt forest in Eastern Australia.  Yield reductions of up to 600mm per year in logged and regenerated areas were in accord with water yield reductions observed in Mountain Ash regeneration in Victoria".  Cornish & Vertessy 2001.

Catchments covered with old growth stands of mountain ash yield almost twice the amount of water annually as those with re-growth stands aged 25 years. Vertessy, Watson, & O'Sullivan. (2001).

"Reductions in water yield through reafforestation constituted a 4 to 21% decrease in annual stream discharge and were statistically significant for a majority of the basins. The reduction of water yields by forests tends to be greater for dry years than for wet years. The result appears to be exacerbation of the streamflow diminution of meterological drought" Trimble et al 1987

"Water yields began to decline in all catchments 2-3 years after logging as regrowth eucalypts became established, and the rate of this decline was related to the mean stocking rate of eucalypt regeneration in the next 4 years.  This water decline exceeded 250mm in the 6th year after logging in the catchment with the highest stocking of regeneration and basal area regrowth".  Cornish 1993

ALTERNATIVES

Clearly, in light of the scientific evidence and the unquestionable environmental impacts in relation to plantations, any policy which relates to them must address these issues.

Further work is still being done, and more evidence will emerge over the next few years, but at this stage it is clear that plantations are appropriate in some strategic locations in the landscape.

However, in many other circumstances natural succession and regeneration back to native forest over time, and diverse, mixed woodlots that are selectively harvested for high quality timber are a much better water, wildlife and indeed wood outcome than plantations.

Clearly, plantations on steep slopes should banned because short-rotation clear-felling and intensive roading causes severe erosion and water quality impacts.

CONCLUSIONS

As indicated above, there are a number of reasons to be very concerned about the on-going impact of plantations on the environment.  It is a complicated environmental issue that unfortunately cannot be resolved by a simple slogan.

A mature and considered assessment of the environmental impacts of plantations relative to native forest logging, and a range of alternatives to both, is absolutely essential given the evidence that is now available on this issue.

We believe that although No Native Forest Logging sounds like an easy slogan to adopt it would be both unwise and irresponsible to do so. Far better to have a deliberate, informed policy that is based on an objective application of the best scientific evidence. A wide-ranging debate on the issue within the environment movement is underway.

Based on the best available data, seeing plantations as the answer would be a big mistake. They are one part of a solution, but only a part. (from NEFA)

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