|These photographs provide an illustration
of current Tasmanian forestry practices. The photos are from Coupe
RS142E, in the upper valley of Tombstone Creek, one kilometer upstream
from the Tombstone Creek Forest Reserve in the northeast highlands
of Tasmania. Tombstone Creek is a tributary of the upper South Esk
River, the headwaters of the water supply for Launceston.
I first came upon this forest in May 2003, and was so struck by
its beauty that I made several return visits during the following
12 months. This steep valley-side supported a wet and mossy forest
characterized by myrtles, blackwood, tall eucalypt emergents, groves
of tree-ferns up to eight meters high and some of the largest sassafras
that I have seen anywhere in Tasmania. Many of the sassafras trees
had trunk diameters of one meter or more at chest height.
This forest was clear-felled by cable-logging in the summer of 2005
and burnt in an exceedingly hot fire in April 2006. All of the rainforest
trees were killed outright. The site is steep and soils are sandy
and the valley side was left in a condition which was highly vulnerable
to severe soil erosion. This coupe is bordered by some areas that
were logged within the last 10 years or so, and the regrowth in
these adjacent coupes is a mix of wattle and eucalypt. A narrow
strip of rainforest remains at the new coupe's lowest edge, along
Tombstone Creek, but recolonization by the rainforest trees cannot
occur, due to the competitive advantage of the eucalyptus and wattles
in a full sunlight situation. This is especially so in the context
of a drying climate. Simply put, the process enacted here is conversion,
in this case from a mature mixed rainforest dominated by myrtle
and sassafras, with eucalypt emergents, to an uncultivated crop
of wattle and, presumably, the aerially sown eucalypt species.
In this process of conversion, which is far from being confined
to this particular coupe, two options are precluded. Firstly, the
option for the natural forest to continue to exist for its
own sake and to develop towards rainforest, a point from which,
given the age of the eucalypts, it was not far removed. The second
opportunity forgone is for the possibility of alternative uses of
species other than wattle and eucalypt, including wood uses, for
future generations of people.
Other negative and significant ecological impacts have occurred
here, including devastating effects on wildlife, altered hydrology,
atmospheric pollution, weed invasion and not least, the release
of massive amounts of carbon, previously sequestered within the
soil and the living vegetation, into the atmosphere.
The scenes depicted here are all within 100 meters of each other.
The forest scenes were photographed in 2003, the other scenes in