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Analysis and Comment (54)

Much of Tasmania’s World Heritage has been sculpted by ice. The extension to the area (currently under debate) adds to all these values. Much of Tasmania’s World Heritage has been sculpted by ice. The extension to the area (currently under debate) adds to all these values. Simon Lieschke/Flickr

Tasmania’s World Heritage debate needs to look beyond the trees

The debate around Tasmania’s controversial World Heritage extension, under review this week at international talks in Doha, has centred on forests. But the area includes far more than “just” trees — including…
Which path will the government take? Which path will the government take? Roger Jones

How our forests are governed is not yet out of the woods

Three years ago, government plans to privatise the forests met with strong opposition from community groups and NGOs. But there have been calls for change – among others the Woodland Trust has called for…
Fire is one of the reasons tall trees struggle in the heat. Fire is one of the reasons tall trees struggle in the heat. Valley_Guy/Flickr

Catch-22: big trees fight climate change but suffer in the heat

Clearing forests is one of the major contributors to carbon dioxide emissions — something we’ll need to keep in check if we’re to have any hope of mitigating climate change. Recent research suggested that…
Changing corporate attitudes are giving orangutans and other endangered species in Indonesia’s rainforests more hope of survival. Changing corporate attitudes are giving orangutans and other endangered species in Indonesia’s rainforests more hope of survival. Flickr/Austronesian Expeditions

How global forest-destroyers are turning over a new leaf

Indonesia is the world’s biggest destroyer of forests and four multinational corporations — APP, APRIL, Wilmar and Golden Agri Resources — have been responsible for much of it. Until recently these mega-corporations…
The Styx forests: world heritage, or soon to be unprotected again? The Styx forests: world heritage, or soon to be unprotected again? Rob Blakers www.robblakers.com

Australia going backwards on World Heritage listed forests

The Abbott government wants iconic forests removed from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, so they can be logged – a plan opposed by timber companies, their industry body, Tasmania’s Premier…
Using tree measurements by Papua New Guinean villagers such as Daniel and Jackson, scientists can estimate that this tree stores about one tonne of carbon in its trunk and branches. Using tree measurements by Papua New Guinean villagers such as Daniel and Jackson, scientists can estimate that this tree stores about one tonne of carbon in its trunk and branches. Michelle Venter

How tree huggers can save forests with science

While hugging a tree sounds relaxing, it’s harder than you might think - especially when the tree is 20 storeys high and 3 metres wide, it’s hot as hell, and you’re swatting away swarms of sweat bugs…
150,000 square kilometres of tropical rainforest is destroyed every year. 150,000 square kilometres of tropical rainforest is destroyed every year. Threat to democracy

Carbon emissions must not distract us from conservation

With current concerns focusing, quite rightly, on controlling carbon emissions, it is easy to lose sight of the need for continued conservation efforts. In fact our recent study published in the Proceedings…
Longer droughts and hotter temperatures are taking down the world’s forests. Longer droughts and hotter temperatures are taking down the world’s forests. Jonathan Nalder

Across the world, trees are dropping dead

Over the last 30 years, every forested continent has had a widespread drought which has killed trees. The geographical scale of drought, and the duration and almost coordinated nature of these droughts…
We can develop a logging industry that works for everyone. We can develop a logging industry that works for everyone. Flickr/Ta Ann: Behind the veneer

How to get sustainable forestry right

Australian forestry is shifting: in recent months some states have moved to log less, some more. More logging brings protests about environmental values; less, complaints about how it will affect the state’s…
Harnessing the energy in wood may help wean Australia off fossil fuels. Harnessing the energy in wood may help wean Australia off fossil fuels. Flickr/chriscardinal

Bioenergy a burning question for Tasmania’s forests

With Australia trying to meet renewable energy targets and reduce emissions wherever possible, we should be considering bioenergy. Bioenergy can be made by burning biomass in a variety of forms, including…
A sliver of hope as forests learn to consume more CO2. A sliver of hope as forests learn to consume more CO2. Moyan Brenn

Forests less thirsty thanks to increasing carbon dioxide levels

Global warming is primarily driven by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities. Chief among these gases is carbon dioxide (CO2), which warms the planet by trapping heat that would…
If deforestation is cut down, the world’s forests could act as a large net sink for carbon emissions. If deforestation is cut down, the world’s forests could act as a large net sink for carbon emissions. Flickr/sobriquet.net

Explainer: how much carbon can the world’s forests absorb?

You are walking through the bush when you see an enormous tree trunk, tens of metres long, lying across the forest floor. Imagine you and several dozen friends lifting it by hand. Now you’ve literally…
Forests and forestry are both important to Victorians: the government should keep an eye on them. Forests and forestry are both important to Victorians: the government should keep an eye on them. lizardstomp/Flickr

Victorian law change abandons native forests to loggers

At the end of this month, the Victorian Parliament is expected to pass a Bill giving industry long-term control of timber resources in Victoria’s native forests. The government says the changes are important…
Any agreement to end the forest ‘wars’ should neither prop up a failing industry nor shut down dissent. Any agreement to end the forest ‘wars’ should neither prop up a failing industry nor shut down dissent. AAP Image/Matthew Newton

Tasmanian Forests Agreement: liberal society needs an alternative

Fred Gale’s article, Tasmanian Forests Agreement: deeply flawed, worth backing, provides interesting insights into the views of one segment of the Tasmanian community that supports the Tasmanian Forest…
Whose opinion of this forest is most important? The Tasmanian Forests Agreement has decided. Whose opinion of this forest is most important? The Tasmanian Forests Agreement has decided. Sarah Caulfield

Tasmanian Forests Agreement: deeply flawed, worth backing

On April 30 2013, Tasmania’s Parliament passed the Tasmanian Forests Agreement, with the aim of ending one of the world’s longest-running forestry conflicts. The deal “locks up” a further half-million…
Giant eucalypts like this swamp gum (Eucalyptus regnans) tower over an understory of rainforest plants, and are dependent on fire for their survival. Giant eucalypts like this swamp gum (Eucalyptus regnans) tower over an understory of rainforest plants, and are dependent on fire for their survival. Flickr/freelancing god

We need to think about fire in Tasmania’s forests

Forest activist Miranda Gibson’s 15-month stay up a giant eucalypt has been interrupted by bushfire. Meanwhile Tasmania’s forestry peace deal, now being considered in the state’s upper house, has drawn…
Victoria’s alpine forest is burning more often, changing the landscape and reducing its ability to store carbon. Victoria’s alpine forest is burning more often, changing the landscape and reducing its ability to store carbon. AAP Image/Australian Workers Union

Ash to ashes – what could the 2013 fires mean for the future of our forests?

In the high country of Victoria, firefighters are presently battling a large bushfire that is moving through the forests south of Harrietville and past the second highest mountain in Victoria, Mt. Feathertop…
Logging of Mountain Ash doesn’t make the sustainable forestry grade. Logging of Mountain Ash doesn’t make the sustainable forestry grade. lizardstomp/Flickr

Victorian forestry is definitely not ecologically sustainable

By any scientific yardstick, forestry operations in Victoria cannot be regarded as ecologically sustainable. Much of the attention of politicians, policy makers and the general public has been on the tall…
If Victoria keeps logging the way it is, the Leadbeater’s Possum is doomed. If Victoria keeps logging the way it is, the Leadbeater’s Possum is doomed. ccdoh1/flickr

Sending Leadbeater’s Possum down the road to extinction

We have studied the effects of current widespread clear-felling in Victoria’s Mountain ash forests for almost three decades. Clear-felling now loses large amounts of money for the state of Victoria, degrades…
Spending a year up a tree no longer means being cut off from influence. Spending a year up a tree no longer means being cut off from influence. Alan Lesheim

Digital tree-sitting: environmental protest when media is everywhere

Environmental protest was once a gritty, combative affair, mediated through an often-hostile press. But these days, even a tree-sitter in the most far-flung wilderness can control her own media image and…
Foresters and farmers have an 8000-year history of dealing with climate variation and providing food and provisions - they may have climate change solutions. Foresters and farmers have an 8000-year history of dealing with climate variation and providing food and provisions - they may have climate change solutions. Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Climate change action needs forests and farms working together

The UNFCCC COP-18 in Doha worked overtime to finally agree not to disagree. The Secretariat was quick to make a release that declares success and highlights four results: Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol…
Research is clear on the value of the Tarkine’s rainforest, but does it matter to human society? Research is clear on the value of the Tarkine’s rainforest, but does it matter to human society? Rob Blakers

Tarkine a question of values: mines versus ancient rainforest

In Australia, we ride on the open cut mine’s back. In the island state of Tasmania, there is a medium size-class open cut mine (928 hectares) with 210 hectares of settling ponds, from which iron nodules…
Sure, the Tasmanian Forests Agreement isn’t perfect, but do you have a more sustainable way to stop the forest wars? Sure, the Tasmanian Forests Agreement isn’t perfect, but do you have a more sustainable way to stop the forest wars? Matthew Newton/AAP

Give sustainability a chance: Tasmanian Forests Agreement in perspective

The signatories to the Tasmanian Forests Agreement (TFA) have spent more than two years trying to square the circle of forest conflict in Tasmania. The deal they brokered deserves prima facie respect…
Could DNA-based prevention efforts spell trouble for illegal loggers? Could DNA-based prevention efforts spell trouble for illegal loggers? jimmedia

DNA based methods leave illegal loggers with no place to hide

Illegal logging is a major contributor to tropical deforestation and forest degradation. Australia is currently considering legislation to prevent the importation of illegally logged wood. But if the legislation…
Brigalow trees are vital for soil health and erosion control. They’re only just recovering from 19th century clearing. Why does the Queensland Government have it in for them? Brigalow trees are vital for soil health and erosion control. They’re only just recovering from 19th century clearing. Why does the Queensland Government have it in for them? Arthur Chapman

Queensland land-clearing changes threaten trees farmers need

The Queensland State Government has recently proposed changes to the Vegetation Management Act 1999. Under the planned reforms, landowners will be able to clear and thin out vegetation using self-assessable…
In the US Congress, it was hard to find an opponent to stopping illegal logging. In the US Congress, it was hard to find an opponent to stopping illegal logging. CIFOR

Lessons from the US: stopping illegal logging benefits both sides of politics

As the Australia Parliament currently debates legislation to fight illegal logging, it’s worth considering the impact of the American and European laws on which the Australian effort is modelled. We may…
Bumping into a jaguar in Mexico’s cloud forest could soon be a thing of the past. Bumping into a jaguar in Mexico’s cloud forest could soon be a thing of the past. Kjersti Holmang/Wikimedia Commons

Head in the clouds: reserves won’t save Mexico’s forest

The chances of being roared at by a jaguar in a Mexican cloud forest are already low, but that is precisely what happened to me during a recent fieldwork expedition. I was very lucky to see a jaguar close…
The recent climate-related deaths of tracts of Western Australian forest go beyond a green issue. The recent climate-related deaths of tracts of Western Australian forest go beyond a green issue. George Matusick

Western Australia’s catastrophic forest collapse

Recent, unprecedented, climate-driven forest collapses in Western Australia show us that ecosystem change can be sudden, dramatic and catastrophic. These collapses are a clear signal that we must develop…
Knocking down forests and planting palm oil makes sense in Asia. Providing alternative income sources for villagers could make it less attractive. Knocking down forests and planting palm oil makes sense in Asia. Providing alternative income sources for villagers could make it less attractive. Simon J. Rowntree

Forestry, economic development & climate change in Asia: resolving the tension

Reducing poverty in developing countries through economic development is often contrary to addressing climate change. In countries like Indonesia, many of the strongest drivers of the economy – palm oil…
Land of the snow gums: Australian forests are dynamic. Land of the snow gums: Australian forests are dynamic. Flickr/SplaTT

Australia’s vast and dynamic forest cover: a bird’s-eye view

Forests spark emotional debates in Australia. Much of the rhetoric is about saving “the last of Tasmania’s wild forests” or how we must “stop logging in Australian native forests”. Australian forests…
What is coming out of these trees? What is coming out of these trees? BouncedPhoton/Flickr

Trees are changing the air you breathe, but not in the way you think

Plants have long been known as the lungs of the earth. They play a major role in the exchange of moisture, carbon dioxide and oxygen with the atmosphere. However, no link has ever been found between trees…
Most illegal timber ends up in developed countries, but Australia is reluctant to block its importation. Most illegal timber ends up in developed countries, but Australia is reluctant to block its importation. AAP

Illegal logging takes 30 football fields a minute: why isn’t Australia acting?

A few years ago a friend of mine, Philip Fearnside, feared for his life. Phil had just flown into Manaus, Brazil, where he is a biologist and well-respected critic of illegal loggers and others who threaten…
Negotiations are easier if activists are left out, but the results won’t last. Negotiations are easier if activists are left out, but the results won’t last. Rainforest Action Network

An agreement no one agrees on: Tasmanian forest solution in crisis

The Tasmanian forests agreement is hanging by a thread. Political parties have reverted to their old adversarial ways, people who should be getting a say have been excluded from the process, and the large…
There are dark days ahead for Australian forests if renewable energy plan gets the nod. There are dark days ahead for Australian forests if renewable energy plan gets the nod. jwbenwell/Flickr

Oakeshott’s call for wood-powered electricity means more logging

We are poised at a pivotal moment for native forests, the wood products industry and climate change. Australia is moving away from a damaging native forestry industry - and a damaging conflict over its…
Food comes from forests: surely that’s worth talking about? Food comes from forests: surely that’s worth talking about? CIFOR

Ignoring forests won’t bring Rio+20’s ‘future we want’

In June 2012 around 40,000 participants are expected to attend one of the most important environmental gatherings in a generation - Rio+20. A draft agenda has been released, bearing the slogan “The Future…
There’s a lot of carbon in there. There’s a lot of carbon in there. John Tann

Is using native forests for energy really carbon-neutral?

Australia’s forest conflict gets easier to solve as every day passes. In reality, the conflict will solve itself if the government can just resist reviving the environmentally and economically inferior…
Forest agreements were among the positives from Durban. Forest agreements were among the positives from Durban. CIFOR

Deforestation agreements - a climate change success story, sort of …

DURBAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: Amongst the general brouhaha of the Durban Climate Change Conference, progress of sorts on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, plus measures…
Could more plantations help reduce emissions? It depends if they’re done right. Could more plantations help reduce emissions? It depends if they’re done right. esagor

Forest carbon and the Durban climate conference

DURBAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: One of the topics under discussion at Durban is the role carbon farming and other forestry measures could have in reducing emissions. With the possibility that negotiations…
Australia’s eastern forests are on par with those of Brazil. Australia’s eastern forests are on par with those of Brazil. YAZMDG

Forests of eastern Australia are the world’s newest biodiversity hotspot

If you live in eastern Australia there’s a good chance you’re one of nine million Australians who call the world’s newest biodiversity hotspot home. In a recent publication, “Forests of East Australia…
Is PNG’s lease-leaseback system a front for illegal logging? Is PNG’s lease-leaseback system a front for illegal logging? Greenpeace Esperanza

Dodgy logging: are Papua New Guinea’s forests going the way of Indonesia’s?

“Don’t Californicate Oregon [or Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, Montana etc]” was a popular slogan in the western United States during the 1960s and ‘70s. It was a repudiation of the mindless…
It’s a bleak picture, but there’s hope on the horizon. It’s a bleak picture, but there’s hope on the horizon. Bill Laurance

Clearing Indonesia: is there hope for the world’s biggest logger?

What comes to mind when you think of Indonesia? For biologists like myself, Australia’s northern neighbour provokes visions of ancient rainforests being razed by slash-and-burn farmers, and endangered…
Primary forest is best for biodiversity, but we should also look at second-best. Primary forest is best for biodiversity, but we should also look at second-best. cknara/Flickr

Original and the best: nothing beats primary forests for biodiversity

We live in an age of vanishing rainforests. Half of the world’s tropical forests have disappeared since World War II and roughly another 10 million hectares are being felled each year — the equivalent…
In the game of economic and environmental chess, Gunns’s position is looking precarious. In the game of economic and environmental chess, Gunns’s position is looking precarious. ChessAmmo.com

Gunns heading for its Tasmanian endgame

In chess, the endgame takes place when only a handful of pieces are left on the board. In close games, the players must select the best move available to avoid being checkmated. Gunns – Tasmania’s “forest…
Coral reefs may cease to exist – where will their inhabitants go? Coral reefs may cease to exist – where will their inhabitants go? Nick Hobgood

Species affected by climate change: to shift or not to shift?

Human-induced climatic changes are altering ecosystems worldwide. Because of these ecosystem changes, the geographic range of species is shifting towards the poles or to higher elevations. The speed of…
The peace package will have to work hard to bring forestry workers into the modern economy. The peace package will have to work hard to bring forestry workers into the modern economy. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Can Tasmania’s forest deal secure ‘peace’ for workers?

The recently announced $276 million Tasmanian forest agreement agreement sets out to end the war between loggers and conservationists. But the war has been bitter, and forest industry workers have often…
Certifying timber gives some level of certainty that forest products are sustainable. Certifying timber gives some level of certainty that forest products are sustainable. CIFOR/Flickr

Forest certification: a small step towards sustainability

It can be hard to know whether the forest products you buy have been produced sustainably. Forestry certifications were established to give a bit more certainty, but what do they really mean? When you…
The trees are falling, but is anyone listening? The trees are falling, but is anyone listening? NatureNut3/flickr

The Tasmanian Forest Agreement: too close to collapse?

Political scientists now commonly distinguish between ‘government’ and ‘governance’. The former refers to a hierarchical institution while the latter captures the idea of a general process of social steering…
Planting trees on farmland can offset emissions, but does it add up? Planting trees on farmland can offset emissions, but does it add up? Fabio Strozzi/flickr

Trees or crops: will carbon farming be the end of agriculture?

Planting trees in cleared agricultural landscapes is one way for the land use sector to help offset emissions of atmospheric carbon dioxide. But will it displace agriculture? Establishing trees is a robust…
Will the prematurely released Agreement bring peace in Tasmania’s forest wars? Will the prematurely released Agreement bring peace in Tasmania’s forest wars? Rainforest Action Network/flickr

Deal or no deal? Reflections on Tasmania’s forest agreement

A great deal of head scratching will take place in Canberra and Hobart in the coming days as politicians and bureaucrats try to make sense of last week’s Signatories Agreement for Tasmania’s forests. Premature…
Who wouldn’t walk away from an agreement that locks Tasmania into a backward future? Who wouldn’t walk away from an agreement that locks Tasmania into a backward future? ialla/Flickr

Pulping Tasmania’s future

The peace talks underway about Tasmania’s forests are as rich in ironies and paradoxes as Tasmania’s old-growth forests are in carbon. The current direction of the peace talks locks Tasmania into a pulpwood…
What all the fighting is for. What all the fighting is for. epidemiks/Flickr

Is the Tasmanian forest agreement collapsing?

On 18 May 2011, The Wilderness Society suspended its participation in Tasmania’s forest peace talks. Is this the beginning of the end for these negotiations? Perhaps, but only because the solution emerging…
Can prescribed burning stop carbon stores going up in smoke? Can prescribed burning stop carbon stores going up in smoke? AAP

Burn bush, reduce emissions: evaluating costs and benefits of prescribed burning

Bushfires are, together with cyclones and flooding, among the most important natural hazards affecting Australian communities. They also make a significant contribution to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions…
REDD gives countries a reason to hang on to trees: let’s make it work. REDD gives countries a reason to hang on to trees: let’s make it work. AAP

Black and white and REDD all over: a plan to save the world’s forests

The world has been fiddling while the forests burn, or are otherwise lost. One proposal to keep what’s left intact is REDD – essentially, paying countries to conserve their forest carbon stocks. REDD (Reducing…
Trees provide services to cities that far outstrip their cost. Trees provide services to cities that far outstrip their cost. Tim Parkinson/flickr

Sustainable cities need trees, not freeways

As we worry about where we will put Australia’s ever-increasing population, urban trees are becoming collateral damage. So how much are our trees worth to us? According to Melbourne City Council, they…

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (25)

Climate linked with bark beetle outbreaks

An increase in mountain pine beetle outbreaks in North America has been linked with climate change. A study of the number…

A canopy view of climate change

A touring art installation has used real-time data collected from the canopies of trees to raise awareness about the environmental…

Carbon released from forest growth

Dead plant material known as litterfall provides energy to soil microorganisms, leading to a release of stored soil carbon…