Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Logging Native Forests Worsened Australia's Wildfires, Scientists Say

Science
Cut timber being loaded for transportation to a manufacturing plant in Gympie, Queensland, Australia on July 17, 2013. Auscape / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Australia's unprecedented wildfires that raged for months and destroyed millions of acres were likely made worse by industrial logging of native forests, according to a new commentary from five scientists published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.



The group of five senior Australian scientists from the Australian National University, Macquarie University and the University of Queensland said that logging native forests makes fire more severe and they are calling for a clearer assessment about how land management and forestry practices add to the risk of wildfires, according to The Guardian.

"Logging causes a rise in fuel loads, increases potential drying of wet forests and causes a decrease in forest height," said James Watson, a professor at the University of Queensland and an author on the paper in a university statement. "It can leave up to 450 tonnes of combustible fuel per hectare close to the ground — by any measure, that's an incredibly dangerous level of combustible material in seasonally dry landscapes. By allowing these practices to increase fire severity and flammability, we undermine the safety of some of our rural communities.

"It affects wildlife too by creating habitat loss, fragmentation and disturbance for many species, with major negative effects on forest wildlife," he added.

They say that the contribution of logging to bushfires needs greater scrutiny, and there should be more public awareness about the compelling links between wildfires and the climate crisis, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

They also note that while most global emissions and pollution is out of the country's control, Australians have full authority over how their own land is managed.

"The first is to prevent logging of moist forests, particularly those close to urban areas," said lead author David Lindenmayer, a professor at Australia National University, in a statement. "We must also reduce forest fragmentation by proactively restoring some previously logged forests. In the event of wildfires, land managers must avoid practices such as 'salvage' logging — or logging of burnt forests — which severely reduces recovery of a forest."

Last week, VicForests Chief Executive Officer Monique Dawson criticized professor Lindenmayer, an internationally regarded ecologist, saying in a letter to the Goongerah Environment Centre that the agency "does not accept his published opinions."

Lindenmayer said he was taking legal advice about the remarks in the letter, as The Guardian reported. He added that her comments reflected an organization that was unscientific and did not rely on evidence to manage forests.

In fact, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported, despite warning from environmentalists that forests and wildlife are still very fragile, VicForests last week revealed plans to log 3500 hectares of forests burnt during the catastrophic summer fires in the next few years.

The paper says industry data showed that some 161 million cubic meters of native forest was logged between 1996 and 2018.

"Beyond the direct and immediate impacts on biodiversity of disturbance and proximity to disturbed forest, there is compelling evidence that Australia's historical and contemporary logging regimes have made many Australian forests more fire prone and contributed to increased fire severity and flammability," the scientists wrote, as The Guardian reported.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less
The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Bystanders watch the MV Wakashio bulk carrier from which oil is leaking near Blue Bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius, on August 6, 2020. Photo by Dev Ramkhelawon / L'Express Maurice / AFP / Getty Images

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, renowned for its coral reefs, is facing an unprecedented ecological catastrophe after a tanker ran aground offshore and began leaking oil.

Read More Show Less
A mural honors the medics fighting COVID-19 in Australia, where cases are once again rising, taken on April 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

By Gianna-Carina Grün

While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hannah Watters wrote on Twitter that she was suspended for posting a video and photo of crowded hallways at her high school. hannah @ihateiceman

As the debate over how and if to safely reopen schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic continues, two student whistleblowers have been caught in the crosshairs.

Read More Show Less