The Changes: The Complete Story

It’s FINISHED! @TheChangesBookSeries is complete and published on Amazon.

There is a free promotion April 25-28 on the Kindle Boxed Set (contains Refuge, Rescue and Return in a revised edition with a glossary and list of characters). With the Kindle at USD $2.53 for over 700 conventional book pages, it’s a bargain even if you miss the sale.

Volume 3 Return, in hard copy is now available as well (also with glossary and dramatis personae).

Check out my Amazon author page for more details.

Read the book – and you’re taking your own action on #ClimateChange, even if you’re still in #lockdown, enjoying #QuarantineLife ! 

Here are just some of the reviews for Volume 1 (Refuge) and Volume 2 (Rescue):

“The first in a larger series of cli-fi stories, Mr Cadman in Australia has written a start book that should light a fire worldwide. I’m looking forward to all the books in the series to follow. Bravo!”

Dan Bloom, originator of the term CliFi

“Cadman’s clear sense of the UN policy arena comes through in this fascinating novel. The characters are not only compelling, but they each represent some facet of the actual terrain of the impacts of climate change. While this is intended to be science fiction, there is much that we can learn from “The Changes” about our possible future–and, indeed, current reality.”

Dr Lauren Eastwood, on Amazon.com

“I loved the first book. It was a great story, had great characters and most importantly it made you think; about yourself and humanity. As the story continues in the second volume all these same attributes are further developed; and twisted around your ethical bone until you will question everything. Looking forward to the story continuing.”

Mark Davis, on Amazon.com.au

SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE!

The Changes: Return

Volume 3, Book V

III   MARIE-CLAUDE

Marie-Claude was no longer the manic obsessive she had been in the last stages of her career as Executive Secretary. Her exile had been a blessing in disguise, and with Blanchflower and Major Armstrong to keep her company, she gradually became more of the person she had been before her breakdown. The dedication to reuniting the displacees with their families remained, but it was tempered by a greater recognition of her own needs, and the needs of those with whom she shared her tiny world, now renamed Cloister Farm. 

Jack had joined her shortly after her recovery; UNSAP was a thing of the past, as were the shuttles, and he was lonely without her. Feeling sorry for him, she made the mistake of asking him to help her in the office, where predictably, he was an absolute disaster. Blanchflower had come to the rescue, suggesting over dinner one night that if they were going to be more than a farm in name only, perhaps he might like to help? Jack gladly accepted, taking charge of cropping, and curiously, beekeeping. Marie-Claude couldn’t help commenting that he looked like an astronaut when he put on his bee-suit. With no tractor it was hard going to turn the ground, but he had not worked his way through the ranks by sitting on his hands, and he enjoyed being outdoors. The grain and the honey both went to make Jack’s bourbon, which, given the man’s drinking habits, was all the incentive he needed to become a full-time farmer.  

She played no further role in military affairs, except to take part in a holo-link conference at the farm arranged by Blanchflower in the immediate aftermath of the WorldCON surrender. She did not see or hear from Captain Branksome for some time after that, suspecting he thought she was being derelict in her duty. This was something that would have mattered to her old self, but not anymore; he would visit when he was ready. As soon as she returned from earth, Lt Stein re-entered the simulation and stopped communicating with her, although Marie-Claude did get an account of her activities from Cordwell. 

The priest took it upon himself to write her regular epistles every decade or so, detailing the various dilemmas that he was obliged to confront as WorldCON’s chief negotiator, now the colonies were gone. It was good to be kept informed, she supposed, and although she occasionally responded to his missives, she never offered him advice. She missed her old friend the Professor from Colony Four far more, and was always pleased to get one of his detailed reports on his wildlife projects. 

Bordeianu visited occasionally. This was a serious commitment, as it meant expending real life-hours to exit the one scenario, physically re-connecting the capsule to the Cloister Farm sub-systems, and repeating the process to return. The systems analyst even went so far as to create a new visualisation of The Repository for her when the need arose. Ms Gupta did not visit, and Marie-Claude did not ask after her, nor did the systems analyst speak of her unless necessary. Like Madé, she was one person she would no doubt have to meet one day, and she was not yet ready to confront either of them. 

Peters made the most substantive contribution to her own efforts, and over the years they developed a good working relationship. Communicating via terminal was not particularly useful, given the difference between real-time and virtual, so he visited by holo-link whenever he discovered anything useful. She found their exchanges worked best if she continued to treat him as the slightly bumbling but well-intentioned Cultural Retrieval officer she had first met in Geneva-Four, however significant a position he now occupied on earth. He was particularly concerned to secure her assistance in his own efforts to recover the original identities of the mysterious Comrades, and servitor-zombies that Gruber had created. Central had deliberately kept no records, and together they began to piece together who had been where, and done what, in those dark times. There were also thousands of flimsies in the Basel archive, incomplete and in total disarray, but they were nevertheless useful for adding to or confirming the data Marie-Claude had already.  

One major disappointment in her life was the lack of communication from Trappinski. He had attended the initial post-colonial holo-link, and she had expected him to stay in contact, but she neither saw nor heard from him after that. She had always considered him a friend, and was hurt by his apparent indifference to her existence. As a scientist, however, he had always been more attached to their research than people. Trappinski had little to no empathy for others, and she had learned the danger of fixating on problems she could not solve, so she acknowledged her feelings, accepting he would get in touch with her if and when he needed to. 

Meanwhile, she got on with her own undertakings.  The longer she worked in the office, the more familiar she became with her subject-matter, and she began to see her task as one of detective work, focussed more on finding the connections between individuals, and worrying less about daily targets. In this way, one single record could be linked to many others, and only one positive identification was enough to lead to many more as the work progressed. As the years passed, the number of individuals she reunited with their families became thousands, over the decades, tens of thousands, by the end of the first century, hundreds of thousands, and at the end of the first millennium, millions. As the numbers grew with the years, more and more displacees became aware of Marie-Claude, not as the Executive Secretary, but as Madame Bertillon. The dissonance grew between their memories of the tyrant who had condemned a billion refugees to the moon, and the woman who brought families together.Since her recovery, and his ascension to sentience, she and Blanchflower had become friends. Her therapy sessions were replaced by co-counselling, and they would share thoughts and feelings, both gaining from the exchange; emotions were new to Blanchflower, and Marie-Claude had spent many years supressing hers.  

The Changes: Rescue

Volume 2, Book III

II   MADÉ

Waking up was disorienting. It was dark and he was rocking gently. Familiar with the sensation, he began to piece together his previous movements. He had been in Colony One, on the transcontinental express, after visiting Camp Hope. He had gone there with Herr Niemand to gain more recruits for the revolution. Something had happened on the train. His memory was still fuzzy and he was unable to recall what. He felt odd, as if everything he was experiencing was not quite real. He sat up, hitting his head on the top bunk. 

It was enough to knock him to his senses. He was in the simulation. With a stab of recollection, he also knew he had been with Shanti – in real life. A familiar sense of claustrophobia threatened to take control. The blackness pressed in on him as if he were trapped in a malfunctioning capsule. Panicking, he fumbled around for the light. 

Regarding him impassively from the opposite bunk was the old man. 

 “Is that you, Niemand? You frightened me.”

 “There are worse things to fear. I am glad to see you are back in the land of the living. I had begun to think there was a malfunction in your interface with the simulation.” 

Seeing the construct was a relief and a disappointment, confirmation that he was back in Colony One.

“This is hardly the land of the living.”

“Perhaps not, but it is the best place for you right now. Your diagnostics went offline. You have been lying there for more than two days. We are not far from Berlin.”

“Shanti got me out, can you believe it? I met her – actually met her. We tried to get a tug to reach the shuttles and escape, but I was too weak. I collapsed in the tug hangar at Port Freedom. I don’t know what happened after that.”

“You were in a coma. It appears that you remained that way until you were patched back into the simulation. Even then you took a while to stabilise. Without re-encapsulation, you would most likely be dead. Your extraction was almost fatal.” 

“I saw my body. The tug accident all those years ago; it’s made me a cripple. A limp in here is nothing compared to what I am like out there. And Shanti is so much older than me. How can we ever be together? Everything is a mess.”

Sitting on the edge of the bunk, he cradled his head in his hands, miserable.

“You are being overly melodramatic. Your companion is extremely resourceful. She’s waiting for us at the terminus.”

“What are you talking about?”

 “I suggest you lie back down and listen.”

Despite his confusion, Madé complied. His recent experience had left him physically and mentally drained. The construct explained the rapid turn of events in Colony One. The preparations they had put in place over the past months had paid off. As soon as it became apparent that the scenario was nothing more than a simulation populated with constructs and displacees in capsules, the Sons and Daughters of Freedom had coordinated mass marches and street blockades. Captain Kiriov, Martin and the other conspirators that Madé had recruited also played their part, organising strikes and walkouts from WorldCON facilities, making the process of governing impossible. In a few days the whole colony had fallen into complete disarray. For the most part, their people had been well disciplined and non-violent. The military was still desperately and unsuccessfully trying to regain control. The tide had turned in favour of the Sons and Daughters.

He listened, occasionally asking questions, but was otherwise content to let Niemand speak. As the train steamed towards its destination – and Shanti – he began to feel a little better. He wondered what it would be like meeting her again. Already, his time outside felt like a long time ago. He was so much younger there. How could she really love him, given his condition? There was something almost obscene about the idea. It made him angry. He was glad the revolution was succeeding. There should be a reckoning for those responsible for having made him that way. 

“Did you hear anything I have been saying for the last few minutes?”  

“I’m sorry. There’s so much to take in.”

“There is more, so you had better pay attention. You have become the hero-saviour of Colony One. You are the cause célèbre of the revolution.”

“Why?”

“Your story has struck a chord. I have been circulating an unofficial biography and some of the more notable sayings from your essays are being painted on walls across the colony.”

“Essays? I never wrote anything.”

“You might not have, but I did. You have become a source of inspiration for millions. You are a legend. Shanti too.”

“I don’t want to be a legend. I want out of here. I want my life back.”

“Your life is not your own to make those kinds of decisions anymore, I am afraid. The fate of the entire simulation rests in your hands. You are the symbol of resistance against the authorities. You are lucky they are unable to harm you. If they did, the simulation would most likely collapse under the weight of mass protest. WorldCON is losing control. 

“You wanted to change things. You have. Now it is up to you to show leadership. Remember your time in the A-9 – when you were alone and landed the shuttle single-handedly?”

“Of course. It was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done – even if it was in the simulation. What does that have to do with what is happening here?”

“Everything. If you want to see a time when everyone can leave this place and return to earth, you have to be as brave now, as you were then. That was your first bold step. Now, you must accept responsibility for who you are and who you are yet to be. 

“Look, here come the outskirts of Berlin. We need to get you ready. I have brought you a new handy and some clothes. Put them on.” 

He was reluctant, but Niemand would hear no objection and as the train approached the terminus Madé had little option but to dress as quickly as he could. The construct had provided blue weatheralls, well made, yet plain enough for him to pass as one of the people. A matching cap and a pair of stout boots helped add a few inches to his otherwise slight frame.

The Changes: Refuge

Volume One, Book I

I   CHARLES PETERS

Charles Peters was late. He woke up in the sure knowledge that he had overslept. Panicking, he reached over for his handy and read the time: 07:23. The alarm had failed to go off. Dry tongued, he dialled for the nearest ground vehicle. 07:40. He had to be at the terminal for boarding at 8:20. Packing at the same time as he scrambled into his clothes, he gulped from the tap (unwise) and headed out.

The handy pinged in his pocket. The ground vehicle had been rerouted and a replacement wasn’t due to arrive until 07:50. He spent the remaining minutes waiting for the GV in an apoplexy of angst. Why today of all days? It was turning out to be his worst nightmare, just like the one he had this morning, shortly before he woke up. The GV came around the corner and the dream-memory vanished with the last vestiges of the hangover.

Sitting in the GV, he fell into a reverie that sang a harmony to the melody of his anxiety. It was a scorching hot morning as ever, but Charles Peters had broken into a sweat long before.

“Can’t you go any faster?” he demanded of the driver.

The driver – separated by a screen of bulletproof glass and with his intercom switched off – jabbered something muted and incomprehensible.

At last the terminal came into sight. It was 08:07 – still time to make it. They got to Security. The vehicle immediately in front had just set off an impressive array of sensors, lights and alarms, and a large mesh screen shot up, blocking the way forward. Any hope of catching that flight failed like the last blinking lights on the departure board.

In his frustration, Charles Peters rapped on the plexa-glass screen and gesticulated to the driver to turn on the intercom.

“Isn’t there anything you can do?”

He could just make out something that sounded like ‘handy’ and ‘here’. Unwilling to let go of the device but desperate to try anything, he slid it through the safety grille. The driver took it and pushed it into a slot in the dashboard. After a few moments’ silence a ping announced the outcome. 

“What did it say?”

The driver looked at the handy, pushed it back through the grille, and got out of the GV.

There was a message.

You have been placed on an alternative flight. 

Stay in the vehicle until it reaches the departure terminal.

By authority,

WORLD COALITION OF NETWORKS

The vehicle resumed the journey on auto. His anxiety now somewhat in abeyance, he sat back in the relative comfort of the GV and examined his own life. He’d been working for WorldCON for more than twenty years. He knew that at some basic level he was being taken care of, unlike the billions who had not been. But the constant impacts of The Changes were escalating. Time was running out. His grandfather had been instrumental in the establishment of WorldCON, and its first Secretary General. This had brought privilege of a kind, but he had been expected to follow in the footsteps of his lineage. 

He was the only surviving child of high-ranking diplomats who’d married late. As a family, they’d been one of the lucky ones – at first. But then The Changes took his parents, and his only sister. A translator by training, Charles Peters had been drafted, and spent most of what he bitterly thought was wasted time recording customs and languages that had gone or were going extinct. Cultural Retrieval it was called. This was another one of such jobs, except that it was in Japan rather than anywhere else.

Not that it really made much difference to Charles Peters. He really only lived to work, had no social life, and was constantly tired from overwork. How could he complain? He had shelter, warmth – food in his belly. He had a gold pass compared to millions of his fellow WorldCON citizens who had to scramble for any kind of living just to survive. He had led the strangest life of being parachuted into the worst disaster zones and areas of deprivation he had to see himself to believe. He was almost always associated with a larger WorldCON rescue team; the incidental, not really part of the set-up, picking through the ruins of fire, flood, famine and drought.

This time in Japan, he had been debriefing from an operation in Hokkaido where he’d been sent to record the last of the songs being sung by the Ainu people about the bears and salmon with whom they had once shared the world. Years of drought and dry winters had left the island tinder-dry, and it had recently burnt end-to-end, leaving the population with nothing. He’d been with people from various WorldCON agencies. People didn’t really take much notice of a translator, but he had given his presentation anyway. He had got rather drunk at an underground bar that still sold real Sake. Then he had woken up late.

At a break in the fence, the GV turned down a huge avenue of razor-barb walls. His journey was to continue for another few kilometres yet; more time for reflection. Charles Peters was sick of his life: sick of working for people who didn’t care a damn about what he did for them. His research and reports went unread; people were dying as he wrote about them and he felt like a monstrous pirate, grabbing the last of his victims’ precious artefacts on their demise. 

The love of his life had been words; they were the only things he ever really interacted with on an intimate level. He had done well in his studies, but life had got in the way and The Changes had prevented him from finishing. He was pitched straight into WorldCON; a cultural vampire, yet driven to protect all that was left of the recorded fragments of civilisation as it was being extinguished on earth.

Initially, he’d found the work fascinating. His first major project had been in China. He had been sent to a region that had been devastated in a flood. Subsequent assignments kept Charles Peters busy for months at a time, usually at eighteen hour-long stretches or more. He never had time for anything except work. The privileged appeal of being one of the very chosen few on earth who were allowed to travel by air had worn thin. He didn’t have a person on earth who really cared for him or even noticed him. His life was at the proverbial crossroads: could he go ahead with everything as normal, or admit that he was going slowly insane? He knew too much not to know that the human race and countless other species were rapidly disappearing; The Changes had sped everything up. His research became an ever-increasing catalogue of disappearing people and their remains, and under such terms it could only be depressing. No one noticed him or what he did anyway; he was too unimportant. He just did his work for WorldCON and that was it.

The GV reached a security booth. At this point he was required to get out to be scanned. An anti-nausea pill popped out of an automatic dispensary, which he took, now ready for the flight, and resumed the trip. The GV swung past the main terminal, taking a route he had not gone before. He noticed an Authorised Access Only sign behind the razor-barb. Charles Peters wondered where he was being posted that required such secrecy, but he knew times were tough; people could be posted anywhere.

The GV approached a building unlike any of the other terminals Charles Peters was used to and pulled up at the main entrance. Taking everything he had – either in his pockets or his one piece of carry-on luggage – he entered into a large concourse. His handy pinged. On the screen was his flight number. He just had to find it on the departure board and he’d be off. He didn’t know where; you hardly ever knew until you took off.

By this time, being late was an irrelevancy. He was completely in the hands of WorldCON. There was nothing to do except wait until the handset pinged. 

He glanced up at the departure board. He looked at the list of flight codes, but couldn’t see his. He scanned it again. This was not usual. 

He approached the service desk. Two young Japanese flight attendants stood there impassively. He knew the rigmarole, and gave his flight number. One of them bowed, stood back, holding open the curtain behind the service desk. He passed into a smaller scanning booth, and emerged on the other side. A third flight attendant ushered him down a long snaky corridor, through its puckered end, and on board. 

He belted up and prepared for take-off. He felt himself being gently and increasingly forced back into the chair as the gees increased. This was the worst part of the flight, but it didn’t last long. 

He looked out of the tiny window. There she was below him, his whole world: bluer and browner than his grandfather would have seen it – and a lot more clouds. He wasn’t aware of falling asleep – one of the side effects of the anti-nausea pill – awaking to the insistent vibration of his handy.

You have been selected as a candidate for intensive training. 

You will shortly be arriving at Colony Nine.

You will undertake integration upon arrival, after which you will be given your next assignment.

They touched down. He unbuckled and made his way to the exit. He stepped into a tunnel. There were no windows. He walked alone down the corridor. Ahead he could see a crowd of people waiting in line in front of a security booth. The queue was long. Ordinary people, all with a single piece of luggage and dazed like him, were waiting their turn at the scanning booth. 

There were screens on the walls every ten meters or so. A vaguely familiar elderly man was sitting behind a desk, holding a sheaf of papers and looking directly at him.

“Welcome to Colony Nine. I hope you enjoy your second chance.”

Eventually it was his turn. He was instructed to leave his handy and bag behind, take off his clothes, put on new weatheralls, and proceed. He did as he was told, and walked into a new world.

Governing the sun: the challenges of geoengineering

Governments have previously sought to reduce climate-change inducing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere through mitigation and adaptation activities, but are now exploring other measures. Negative emissions technologies (NET) are aimed at carbon dioxide removal(CDR) to a level consistent with a desired temperature, while solar geoengineering, also known as solar radiation management, or modification (SRM) seeks to reflect sunlight away from earth and thereby reduce global temperatures. Existing measures to combat rising emissions have not been entirely successful, and CDR and SRM have consequently gained increased policy traction in recent years. Emerging technologies include bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI). A careful, unbiased, and knowledge-driven assessment of the risks of these technologies is required, and that robust governance systems should be put in place before they are implemented any further.

CDR was investigated in an IPCC special report in 2005. The technology was acknowledged as one of the options for removing COfrom the atmosphere arising from the combustion of fossil fuels for energy production and the burning of forests. Solar geoengineering has emerged as a supplement to CDR as a consequence of concerns that global GHG emissions are still increasing, and may result in an increase to 1.5 degrees warming as early as 2030, which partly explains the growing interest in more radical technologies to reduce risks of climate change.

BECCS was originally envisioned only as a backstop under an extreme climate scenario should ambitious emissions reductions prove unfeasible, in the context of commensurate broad-scale forest restoration and replanting, and as a risk management option. Nonetheless the technology has gained traction because of a loophole under the Kyoto Protocol which exempted forest loss from being counted as an emission, under the accounting logic that if the cleared area regrows, or is converted to another land-use (such as agricultural crops) it continues to take up carbon. The problem with the implementation of the technology is that initial modelling and pilot projects assumed fuels would come mostly from energy crops and that if residues were used, they would all have similar emissions profiles. In reality, wood pellets are the most common energy source, and are not made from residues, but trees, with a measurably larger, and longer-term net emissions impact (NEI) than other sources. Countries have developed renewable energy policies on the basis of these prior assumptions, as was the case in the UK in 2015, where the government committed over £800 million in subsidies to biomass energy, while phasing out support for offshore wind power, and extending the life of coal-fired power stations using forests in their energy-mix, and net emissions are replacing zero emissions as a policy outcome.

SRM is a set of emerging technologies aimed at altering the Earth’s radiative balance, reducing the amount of climate change caused by greenhouse gases. Space-based techniques and stratospheric aerosol scattering have the potential to block or reflect a small portion of incoming sunlight, cooling the planet and thus reducing the risks of climate change. The leading suggested method is to mimic volcanic activity, whereby fine dust naturally lowers global temperatures for a year or two after large eruptions such as Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Another method involves spraying seawater upwards as fine droplets, which could brighten low-lying marine clouds, thereby reflecting more sunlight. This particular technology has been identified as the source for a range of popular conspiracy theories, including the belief that world governments were filling the atmosphere with toxic pollutants (‘chemtrails’). Although the injection of aerosols into the atmosphere might reduce heat stress on agricultural crops, the resulting reduction in sunlight could have other less positive impacts. Models replicating the impacts of sulfur in the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions, on which this technology are based, indicate the apparent benefits of planetary cooling are outweighed by a reduction in crop yields, while the effects on ecosystem function and human health are unknown.

Despite, or indeed, because of, the IPCC’s previous recognition of the need to give consideration to such technologies, it must continue be emphasized that the most effective approach to reducing climate change risks remains the prevention of greenhouse gas emissions in the first place, and where this is not possible, the reliable, safe and environmentally benign removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. In the case of BECCS there are issues of scale; with the appropriate feedstock and the correct energy mix of wind, solar and bioenergy, there are few adverse impacts. But if scaling up results in the destruction of the world’s remaining primary forests, or taking away land for agricultural production, scale becomes critical and the technology unfeasible. SRM might not only affect the radiation balance but atmospheric chemistry and rain patterns as well. In addition, such techniques do not address the root causes of climate change and other negative effects of high atmospheric CO2 concentrations would persist, including ocean acidification and changes to ecosystems. In other words, business as usual could continue, including the combustion of fossil fuels, while reducing some of the impacts of solar radiation through such techno-fixes, and if solar radiation management should cease as a result of economic or political crises, the result would be a rapid increase in global temperatures, as the GHGs would still be in the atmosphere.

It is the nation-states that will ultimately have to address risks posed by climate change – for good or ill. Global collaboration is key to speeding up efforts to address climate change risks; failure in co-operation, notably between the main emitting countries such as US and China, will quickly translate into a significant increase of climate change, and many more people will have to suffer than are already affected. The dangers inherent in emerging technologies are not always clear, but appropriate responses to the challenges of climate change depend very much on the careful consideration and effective implementation of any additional measures identified by the scientific community as necessary. In order to conserve human society and biodiversity, an unbiased and knowledge-driven assessment of the risks posed by engineering the climate, as well as robust governance systems, are required.

Lastly, no examination of emerging technologies for CDR and SRM is complete without recognising the risks that accompany the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. These have their own inherent problems, notably around the use of market mechanisms, and other approaches that are being negotiated under the Paris Agreement. To ignore the existing tensions in the climate change debate by turning to geoengineering as a panacea could make the current climate emergency even worse.

For a full version, including references, see: Radunsky, K., & Cadman, T. (2019). Governing the Sun, The International Journal of Social Quality, 9(2), 19-34, which, due to the corona virus outbreak, is currently open source:

https://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/ijsq/9/2/ijsq090203.xml

Tim Cadman, Research Fellow, t.cadman@griffith.edu.au

Klaus Radunsky, Chair, ISO TC207 SC7 Mirror Committee, Austrian Standardization Institute (ASI)

Originally posted on https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/04/06/governing-the-sun-the-challenges-of-geoengineering/

Response to ‘salvage’ effort for bushfire-burnt timber: the letter SMH didn’t publish

Readers should refer to Noel Towell’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald 22/01/2020

I am writing to correct the misrepresentation of the issues in Noel Towell’s article “Massive salvage effort for bushfire-burnt timber a race against time.” The error is not so much in the reporting. Noel is indeed right that there is a scramble to log as much of Australia’s burnt forests as possible, but for one sole consideration: money. It has nothing to do with making the forests safe, or restoring damaged ecosystems. It is about scavenging and profiting from the greatest destruction of Australia’s forests and wildlife since colonisation. The truth is that Australia’s forest industry is on the ropes after decades of mismanagement and over-logging, and this post-fire attack on the bush the latest manifestation. We have all seen the green shoots after the burn. These forests are being cut because the recovering trees would no longer be ‘commercially viable’, and by removing them the risk of fire is being increased, not reduced. These salvage areas will now become the new fire grounds, as the piled up logging slash will burn again. So don’t believe the hype, and beware of the costs of buying the timber: lost habitat, missing koalas, and impoverished water quality.

Submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s Recent Fires

Tim Cadman BA (Hons) MA (Cantab), PhD (Tasmania), Grad. Cert. Theol. (Charles Sturt),
Senior Research Fellow, Earth Systems Governance Project,
Research Fellow, Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law, Griffith University,
Adjunct Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

This submission is in two parts, commencing with an analysis of the error of traditional European burning practices for fire mitigation, followed by an exploration of these issues in the forestry context; some examples are situated in Northern NSW and Bellingen Shire in particular.

In summary, forestry operations, land-clearing, and hazard and fuel reduction burning all contribute directly to bushfires. A new management strategy is required, recognising the real and present threat of climate change. The ongoing calls for more clearing and burning will only exacerbate the current environmental crisis. Native forest logging should be ended, and current unburnt forest areas protected for habitat conservation, notably for the koala. Above all, Australia must increase its ambition under the Paris Agreement. A focus on adaptation and resilience, when there is still an urgent need for mitigation of climate change (through decarbonisation of the economy, as per Article 4.1 of the Agreement) is a distraction. Climate change has arrived, and this changes everything.

1) Why Australia should stop burning its forests to save them

The ongoing fires in Australia, which are now approaching 11 million hectares in extent, have been exacerbated by human intervention. In an emergency, traditional practices are no longer relevant and ‘hazard reduction’ burning, followed (if the situation requires it) by ‘back-burning’ ahead of the fire front must be re-evaluated.

In the context of climatic tipping points and extreme weather events, we can see that this season’s initial ‘hazard’ burns were largely responsible for the fires. Some fires originated on public land, as a consequence of mandatory ‘fuel reduction’ burning, and targets, forcing agencies like the Parks Service to burn. The agencies started their burning in the traditional period (end of winter), but of course (on account of climate change) this was the wrong season. But because our governments and their coalition partners generally don’t believe in climate change, the burn period has not been adjusted. Agencies kept on doing the same old thing, and when the fires got out of control, they extended ‘hazard reduction’ burning to private property (as they have compulsory powers) under the guise of ‘protecting assets’ (such as plantations). This was when a significant part of the remnant rainforest on the New England Tableland in New South Wales was destroyed. Once all these fires got out of control, the agencies switched to ‘back’ burning, exacerbating the problem. This in turn emboldened local landowners to burn their properties (as was the case with the 30,000 hectares burnt at Ebor, NSW).

On a broader, ecological/environmental level, quite a few scientists have argued that we should not be burning natural areas. This is because we are increasing fire-loving plants and converting forests to more fire-loving states. In combination with the reduction in age of most forests, and leaving logging slash on the ground, fuel loads have been increased. This is all a consequence of human activity. 

Consequently, some ecologists argue that we should allow our forest communities to return to their natural state and age-class, and permit them to burn according to their natural condition, and focus on securing property in residential areas – not undertake broad-scale burning. Given these observations, we need to accept that all our forests and grasslands are extremely dry, and any burning is simply going to result in more intense fires, earlier in the fire season, which will be made worse by human intervention. And there is mounting evidence to support this claim, with homes destroyed in the Blue Mountains as a result of a supposedly ‘crucial’ back-burn that got out of control.

The correct strategy should be:

1) Immediate implementation of the Paris Agreement, including the target of keeping rising global temperatures to the ‘tolerable’ increase of 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels; 

2) Immediate protection of all high conservation value natural ecosystems; 

3) Restoration of all degraded natural areas, according to ecosystem type; 

4) A shift to alternative agricultural practices such as regenerative farming and massive de-stocking of rangelands; 

5) Restoring natural (environmental flow) levels to all water systems, notably the Murray Darling (no more irrigation);

6) Respecting and reintroducing the Indigenous approach to fire management, which is highly site-specific and relevant to the appropriate ecosystem (i.e grasslands, not rainforests).

If we don’t, then no amount of burning will work. Fire is a tool to be used extremely sparingly, in the appropriate ecosystems; the best examples we have of appropriate fire management are those used by Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Like clear-felling of forests to ‘regenerate’ forests, we are using one tool, for one context, and applying everywhere, because it seems like a magic bullet. It isn’t.

Supporters of burning claim that a cool burn must be preferable to a hot burn, and back burning is only done when it’s cool and humid.

We no longer have cool and humid periods. We are living climate change, right now. To undertake any burning in the current context this summer is little more than ecocide. Every unburnt area needs to be protected to allow for species’ recovery. Enough has burnt already; now we have a higher priority: to protect our biodiversity, because there is a link between biodiversity and climate change. The more we reduce our biodiversity, the more we are exposed to the impacts of climate change (the rangeland fires we have witnessed are a case in point: our soils are so impoverished they no longer hold moisture).

Sadly, by burning the natural environment in the misguided belief we are securing property, we are adding to the fuel load. The more you burn, the more fire-prone natural ecosystems become. Many farmers know this, which is why they have been burning ahead of containment lines, to destroy the ‘scrub’ (rainforest), in the belief they will promote eucalyptus species, for logging, and increasing ‘green pick’ (grass). And so the cycle starts over again.

In NSW, the Kalang River catchment in the shire of Bellingen is now one of the last strongholds for koala and other endangered ‘apex’ species (species which help maintain ecological integrity). There were plans to log the catchment, which were resisted by local residents. Now instead, there is a proposal to burn the catchment to protect the town. But if we kill apex species, we convert ecosystems (let alone undermine the quality of our municipal water supply). A good example is the destruction of Bison in North America. The Bluegrass prairie, which once covered millions of acres is now reduced to a few tiny fragments; it can no longer regenerate, as it was dependent on the buffalo, and has disappeared. In the case of the Kalang these forests must be protected from fire, not burnt, and this should be done by:

a) Not back burning;

b) Allowing natural ecosystems to recover; 

c) Water, not fire; and 

d) Targeted human intervention (manual, not mechanical, responses). 

Supporters of burning claim it’s better to stop a hot burning fire consuming everything in front of it, even if that means creating a narrow corridor of low level burnt material, as this means the fire runs out of fuel.

We cannot stop these fires. They are a consequence of climate change. Therefore, the best response is to change our behaviour in the face of the inevitable, and not deny its reality (adaptation). We also do this by giving the planet a break from extractive and destructive human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, and the degradation of the natural environment, and preventing further exacerbation of the problem (mitigation). 

Those living within semi-natural environments have to take responsibility for their own properties; those of us living in towns need to have a secure municipal perimeters – and we all need to implement other measures, such as sprinkler systems. We can no longer afford to lay waste to everything around us in the vain hope things will get better. 

This is the context I believe this debate is missing. I admire and respect all our firefighters, and I hope they get the resources they need to extinguish the fires, not make more.

2) The Bellinger Valley is an island of green amidst a sea of bushfires due to forest conservation and habitat protection 

The Bellinger Valley is an island of green amidst a sea of bushfires, and the Kalang headwaters are at the very epicentre of that island. The reason why our shire is so verdant, and so free of fire and drought, is because our water catchments are largely being managed for protection purposes. 

Sustainable development recognises that the economy, ecology, and society are inter-dependent, and you can’t have one without the other. Sustainable forest management, or SFM, acknowledges the same. Our governments, of all political colours, support SFM, and recognise the 1992 Statement of Forest Principles, which is part of Agenda 21, negotiated at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. 

SFM recognises that the environment also has economic value. The Upper Kalang and Middle Bellinger River catchments are still filled with ancient, old-growth forests, and rainforests. Such high conservation value forests provide and regulate water quality and quantity. Young forest does not make water, it takes water. The headwater forests of the Kalang River are an important source of what are called ‘ecosystem services’, or ‘natural capital’, and are worth far more than the individual trees or timber within them, which can easily be sourced elsewhere. 

In the Upper Kalang in particular, Bellingen Shire has one of the largest and healthiest populations of koala left on the eastern seaboard. Imagine the economic potential that lies at the heart of this shire, if these forests are managed for their natural values. To undertake extractive management for a few poles that can easily be sourced elsewhere, at no cost to jobs or the economy, would be a bit like grinding up the Taj Mahal to make marble benchtops. 

Finally, I would like to stress the third dimension of sustainability, namely society. SFM also accepts the role of the community in determining how forests should be managed. All of us who live here love Bello shire, we love our forests, and we love our community. We live in a very special place. Let’s keep it that way by managing our natural resources responsibly, for water quality and quantity, habitat and recreation, and let’s keep agriculture and forestry where they belong, which is outside high conservation value forests. Over one hundred years ago the NSW Lands Protection Board set the Kalang forests aside, recognising their extreme potential for erosion. All that stands between shire residents and the soils of the Kalang are its forests, so it is essential to keep them there, and maximise their benefits, instead of minimising their value, and compromising the future.

Tim Cadman has been a ratepayer in Bellingen Shire since 1997. He is not, nor has he ever been a member of the Green Party.  He is a research fellow at Griffith University in forest governance, sustainable development, and climate change. He works in countries and places as diverse as the Amazon, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and India helping local communities, Indigenous people, governments, non-governmental organisations, and all stakeholders to create plans for the sustainable management of their forests. He has been recognised by the Federal Government for his commitment to sustainable forest management in Australia.

This inquiry, worryingly entitled Inquiry into the efficacy of past and current vegetation and land management policy, practice and legislation and their effect on the intensity and frequency of bushfires and subsequent risk to property, life and the environment is likely to lead to recommendations for more logging, salvage logging, clearing and burning. Please send your own submissions to Environment.Reps@aph.gov.au before March 31, 2020

There was no timber shortfall, so the Forestry Corporation are over-logging to create one to justify logging old-growth forests in NSW

Dailan Pugh, September 2019 (reproduced with permission)

This review of Forestry Corporation’s modelled annual yields of High Quality Logs (HQL) for north east NSW shows that there are more than enough resources to satisfy current Wood Supply Agreements (WSAs). Even if these are extended indefinitely the data show there is a growing surplus of HQL for the next hundred years. While the overall trend is for declining Large HQLs, according to the data there is not a net deficit below currently committed volumes until after 2076, and by then there is a massive accumulated surplus of Small HQL.

The problem is that the Forestry Corporation is rapidly turning this surplus into a deficit by gross over-logging. In the three financial years (2016/17 to 2018/19) since the NRC (2016) identified a potential annual shortfall of up to 8,600 m3/yr and recommended another buyback, the Forestry Corporation increased their over-cutting, removing 90,816 m3 HQL above WSA commitments, which would be enough to provide 8,600m3 for 10.6 years. By doing so they have created a deficit compared to modelled yields and it is rapidly growing. The Forestry Corporation are now logging in excess of their modelled sustainable yield, and if the current rate of over-logging is continued until the expiry of most WSAs in 2023 the projected surplus of 52,014 m3 HQL above WSAs turns into a deficit of 129,618 m3 HQL. The over-cutting appears intended to create a shortfall to justify logging oldgrowth forest.

In 2014 the NSW Government spent $8,550,000 buying back 50,000 m3/yr of HQL from Boral. Since then the Forestry Corporation has overcut and sold a total of 97,119 m3 HQL above WSA commitments, which cost taxpayers $1.85 million to buy from Boral. Currently 60% of the retired 50,000 m3/yr is being resold. The environmental impacts are immeasurable.

The Forestry Corporation’s latest data provided to the environmental NGO North east Forest Alliance (NEFA) in August 2019 under a freedom of information request for north-east NSW gives Wood Supply Agreements (WSAs) for 2018 and 2019 as:

Large HQ sawlogs 127137 m3, girders 4150 m3, piles 260 m3, veneer 16,502 m3, poles 27,300 m3.

Poles are given as higher for 2016 and 2017 at 29,250 m3 and as 31,600 m3 for 2015, though other commitments remain the same over the period 2015-19, except for higher commitments in 2015 for Large HQL of 128,457 m3 and Small HQL of 46,664 m3.

The available data on the breakdown of yields of poles and veneer into large and small HQL for 2016 and 17 identifies the proportions of Large HQL as: veneer 79% and poles 44%. Applying these multipliers suggests the Large HQL component of the WSA for veneer is 13,000 and for poles 12,000.

Based on this the WSA commitments are taken to be for 156,547m3/yr of Large HQL. The WSA for Small HQL sawlogs are given as 45,984 m3/yr, with the addition of 3,500 veneer and 15,300 poles, this gives 64,784 m3/yr of small HQL. The total volume committed is 221,331 m3/yr of HQL.

It is important to recognise that most of these volumes are only committed in WSAs that run up until 2023, with Boral’s extended until 2028. There is no commitment to extend them beyond this time.

Over the 8 years from July 2017 until June 2025 the Forestry Corporation’s modelled FRAMES data (provided under a GIPA) identifies an average of 171,520 m3/yr of Large HQL as being available and 58,480 m3/yr of Small HQL, giving a total of 230,000 m3/yr HQL per annum. The early deficit in small sawlogs is more than compensated for by the surplus of higher value Large HQL.

As an exercise to assess log-term availability, the current WSAs are compared to the full 100 year modelled yields. This data reflect the declining Large HQL and increasing Small HQL yields over the 100 year timeframe, with an overall increasing yield of HQL over time. This shows that overall there is a significant surplus of HQL above current WSA commitments for the next century.

It needs to be recognised that the modelling is based on the full volume identified in any time period being logged, so an undercut in one time period provides increased volumes available for future time periods. These surplus volumes will be increased over time by tree growth. Conversely an overcut in one time period reduces volumes available for the future.

Over the 60 years from July 2017 until June 2077 comparison of FRAMES modelled volumes of Large HQL with WSAs gives a total deficit of 5,936 m3 below allocations, and modelled volumes of Small HQL gives a surplus of 885,292 m3 (23%). According to FRAMES there is not a deficit in Large HQL until the 2076/77 financial year, though there are abundant Small HQL to compensate for this.

The Problem is Current Overcutting

In 2014 the NSW Government spent $8.55 million buying back some 50,000 m3/yr of Boral’s WSA for HQ sawlogs (including some 40,000 m3/yr of Large HQL) in order to bring “the supply of timber from the region’s forests back to a sustainable level”. While yields were initially reduced in line with WSAs, they have since dramatically increased. Over the past 3 years the Forestry Corporation has been over-cutting HQL at a rate of 30,272 m3/yr, this is a recommitment of 60% of the purchased volumes that were meant to be retired.

The total volume of timber bought back in 2014 was 450,000 m3 of sawlogs, at a cost of $19/m3. Since the buy-back the Forestry Corporation has a total over-cut of 97,119 m3 HQL for which taxpayers paid $1,847,000 to retire.

The Forestry Corporation data provided under GIPA on yields and WSAs shows that over the 5 years since WSA commitments were reduced there has been a total overcut of 64,729m3 of Large HQL, 31,524 m3 of Small HQL, 8,298 m3 of girders, 3,302 m3 of piles and 917m3 of poles, with an undercut of 11,571 m3 of veneer. Using the above conversions for Large HQL (veneer 79% and poles 44%), this represents an overcut of 67,591 m3 of Large HQL and 29,608 m3 of Small HQL.

The total over-cut of 97,119 m3 HQL is timber that was bought back by the NSW Government from Boral, which at a cost of $19 m3 has already cost taxpayers $1,847,000. Now it is being sold back to the sawmillers at the Forestry Corporation’s profit, and significant environmental cost.

The results for the past 3 years are most alarming, with a total overcut of 63,223 m3 of Large HQL at a rate of 21,074 m3/yr, and 27,593 m3 of Small HQL at a rate of 9,198 m3/yr.

FRAMES shows that there is currently a surplus of 18,649 m3/yr of Large HQL above WSAs, this overcutting has turned this into a deficit of 2,425 m3/yr, with the current deficit of 9,980 m3/yr Small HQL increased to 19,178 m3/yr. This over-cutting is cumulative. The FRAMES run provided is from July 2017, and up until the expiry of most WSAs in July 2023 identifies a total surplus of 97,188 m3 of Large HQL and a deficit of 45,174 m3 of Small HQL, giving a net surplus of 52,014 m3 above WSAs.

Over the 2 years July 2017 to June 2019 the Forestry Corporation over-logged Large HQL by 43,270 m3 and Small HQL by 18,038 m3, reducing the surplus of Large HQL to 53,198 m3 and increasing the deficit of Small HQL to 63,212 m3, creating an overall deficit of 10,014 m3. Now that the surplus has been exhausted this deficit will increase rapidly with each year the overcutting continues.

If this rate of overcutting is extended until 2023, for the period 2018-23 FRAMES shows a total surplus of 97,188 m3 Large HQL turned into a deficit of 29,256 m3, and a total deficit of 45,174 m3 Small HQL increased to 100,362 m3.This created deficit of 129,618 m3 HQL is truly alarming. The evidence is that by intentionally over-logging the Forestry Corporation are creating a resource shortfall where none existed.

The industry has expressed considerable concern with the allocation of HQL outside WSA allocations, as identified by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (2017) who commented that “Some customers expressed concern that FCNSW is selling logs that should be used to meet existing supply commitments to customers without WSAs”.

It is astounding that this over-cutting is occurring at the same time the NRC (2016) “preliminary analysis estimates there could be a reduction of between 7,600 to 8,600 cubic metres per year to high quality wood supply in the North Coast IFOA region based on the recommended settings for Koala protection and the updated threatened ecological communities mapping“. The NRC suggested “Government will need to consider buying back high quality sawlog quota to reduce the

current pressures on wood supply, particularly until increased wood supply from plantation sources becomes available“. Instead of a buyback it was decided to open-up protected oldgrowth forest for logging to make up the claimed shortfall.

The overcut of 90,816 m3 HQL from July 2016 to June 2019 would be enough to provide 8,600m3/yr for 10.6 years, and this is timber the Government already bought back. The over-logging appears intended to create a shortfall where none existed to justify logging oldgrowth forest.

DISCLAIMER: This review is based upon data provided by the Forestry Corporation to NEFA through a GIPA request in August 2019, NEFA has faithfully applied that data and gives no guarantees as to the data’s accuracy. NEFA maintains its concerns about FRAMES modelling.

Why Australia should stop burning its forests to save them

The ongoing fires in Australia, which are now approaching 5 million hectares in extent , have been exacerbated by human intervention. In an emergency, traditional practices are no longer relevant and ‘hazard reduction’ burning, followed (if the situation requires it) by ‘back-burning’ ahead of the fire front must be re-evaluated. 

In the context of climatic tipping points and extreme weather events, we can see that this season’s initial ‘hazard’ burns were largely responsible for the fires. Some fires originated on public land, as a consequence of mandatory ‘fuel reduction’ and targets, forcing agencies like the Parks Service to burn. The agencies started their burning in the traditional period (end of winter), but of course (on account of climate change) this was the wrong season. But because our governments and their coalition partners generally don’t believe in climate change, the burn period has not been adjusted. Agencies kept on doing the same old thing, and when the fires got out of control, they extended ‘hazard reduction’ burning to private property (as they have compulsory powers) under the guise of ‘protecting assets’ (such as plantations). This was when a significant part of the remnant rainforest on the New England Tableland in New South Wales was destroyed. Once all these fires got out of control, the agencies switched to ‘back’ burning, exacerbating the problem. This in turn emboldened local landowners to burn their properties (as was the case with the 30,000 hectares burnt at Ebor, NSW).

On a broader, ecological/environmental level, quite a few scientists have argued that we should not be burning natural areas. This is because we are increasing fire-loving plants and converting forests to more fire-loving states. In combination with the reduction in age of most forests, and leaving logging slash on the ground, fuel loads have been increased. This is all a consequence of human activity. 

Consequently, some ecologists argue that we should allow our forest communities to return to their natural state and age-class, and permit them to burn according to their natural condition, and focus on securing property in residential areas – not undertake broad-scale burning. Given these observations, we need to accept that all our forests and grasslands are extremely dry, and any burning is simply going to result in more intense fires, earlier in the fire season, which will be made worse by human intervention. And there is mounting evidence to support this claim, with homes destroyed in the Blue Mountains as a result of a supposedly ‘crucial’ back-burn that got out of control.

The correct strategy should be:

1) Immediate implementation of the Paris Agreement, including the target of keeping rising global temperatures to the ‘tolerable’ increase of 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels; 

2) Immediate protection of all high conservation value natural ecosystems; 

3) Restoration of all degraded natural areas, according to ecosystem type; 

4) A shift to alternative agricultural practices such as regenerative farming and massive de-stocking of rangelands; 

5) Restoring natural (environmental flow) levels to all water systems, notably the Murray Darling (no more irrigation);

6) Respecting and reintroducing the Indigenous approach to fire management, which is highly site-specific and relevant to the appropriate ecosystem (i.e grasslands, not rainforests).

If we don’t, then no amount of burning will work. Fire is a tool to be used extremely sparingly, in the appropriate ecosystems; the best examples we have of appropriate fire management are those traditionally used by Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Like clear-felling of forests to ‘regenerate’ forests, we are using one tool, for one context, and applying everywhere, because it seems like a magic bullet. It isn’t.

Supporters of burning claim that a cool burn must be preferable to a hot burn, and back burning is only done when it’s cool and humid.

We no longer have cool and humid periods. We are living The Changes. To undertake any burning in the current context this summer is little more than ecocide. Every unburnt area needs to be protected to allow for species’ recovery. Enough has burnt already; now we have a higher priority: to protect our biodiversity, because there is a link between biodiversity and climate change. The more we reduce our biodiversity, the more we are exposed to the impacts of climate change (the rangeland fires we have witnessed are a case in point: our soils are so impoverished they no longer hold moisture).

Sadly, by burning the natural environment in the misguided belief we are securing property, we are adding to the fuel load. The more you burn, the more fire-prone natural ecosystems become. Many farmers know this, which is why they have been burning ahead of containment lines, to destroy the ‘scrub’ (rainforest), in the belief they will promote eucalyptus species, for logging, and increasing ‘green pick’ (grass). And so the cycle starts over again.

In NSW, the Kalang River catchment in the shire of Bellingen is now one of the last strongholds for koala and other endangered ‘apex’ species (species which help maintain ecological integrity). There were plans to log the catchment, which were resisted by local residents. Now instead, there is a proposal to burn the catchment to protect the town. But if we kill apex species, we convert ecosystems (let alone undermine the quality of our municipal water supply). A good example is the destruction of Bison in North America. The Bluegrass prairie, which once covered millions of acres is now reduced to a few tiny fragments; it can no longer regenerate, as it was dependent of the buffalo, and has disappeared. 

In the case of the Kalang we need to protect these forests from fire, not burn them, and we should do that by:

a) Not back burning;

b) Allowing natural ecosystems to recover; 

c) Water, not fire; and 

d) Targeted human intervention (manual, not mechanical, responses). 

Supporters of burning claim it’s better to stop a hot burning fire consuming everything in front of it, even if that means creating a narrow corridor of low level burnt material, as this means the fire runs out of fuel.

We cannot stop these fires. They are a consequence of climate change. Therefore, the best response is to change our behaviour in the face of the inevitable, and not deny its reality (adaptation). We also do this by giving the planet a break from extractive and destructive human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, and the degradation of the natural environment, and preventing further exacerbation of the problem (mitigation). 

Those living within semi-natural environments have to take responsibility for their own properties; those of us living in towns need to have a secure municipal perimeters – and we all need to implement other measures, such as sprinkler systems. We can no longer afford to lay waste to everything around us in the vain hope things will get better. And those of us who simply hate nature, and want to destroy it, need to be stopped.

This is the context I believe this debate is missing. I admire and respect all our firefighters, and I hope they get the resources they need to extinguish the fires, not make more.

Primary forests and carbon: the bigger picture

PRIMARY TROPICAL FORESTS 

Tropical forests are home to 541 Million hectares of remaining primary forest, or 46% of the global total. The ecosystem integrity of primary tropical forests is critical for biodiversity and carbon.

Big, Old Trees 

Big, old trees occur at low densities per hectare but are essential to the health of a primary tropical forest. 

  • Store up to half of the biomass carbon in a forest. 
  • Live for centuries, continuously accumulating carbon throughout their lifetimes. 
  • Provide essential habitat for biodiversity acting as ecological anchors within the food and community webs that are the processes producing forest resilience. 
  • Create a stable forest interior environment that is protected from extreme weather conditions. 
  • Big trees need to be protected—they are quickly destroyed by logging but take centuries to regrow. 

Biodiversity

Native animals, plants, trees, fungi and microbes interact to create stable and enduring primary forests. Primary tropical forests are irreplaceable for biodiversity. They protect about two thirds of all terrestrial plant and animal species, many of which do not survive in degraded forests. 

  • Mammal, bird, reptile and insect seed dispersers and pollinators ensure trees, including long-lived, hardwood species, ‘replant themselves’ and renew the forest. 
  • Forest fauna and flora drive efficient nutrient and water cycles, maintaining healthy forest growth. 
  • The closed forest canopy creates an interior microclimate sheltering the understory and maintaining moist, shady and cool conditions. 
  • Water retained below the canopy stimulates rapid and dense tree and other vegetation growth. 
  • The canopy transpires water, driving convection, which in turn can generate regional cloud cover and rainfall. 
  • All of these attributes combine to create primary forest stability and resilience to threats from diseases, invasive plants, feral animals, drought and fire. 
  • These attributes also enhance ecosystem adaptive capacity to climate change and other stress. 

PRIMARY BOREAL FORESTS 

Primary boreal forests provide critical stores of carbon, biodiversity and freshwater. These forests are home to 481 Million hectares of remaining primary forest, or 41% of the global total.

Big, Old Trees 

Large trees are critical to maintaining biodiversity, and are being lost due to harvesting and other anthropogenic impacts.  

  • Southern boreal forests typically have trees 15-30 m high, while northern boreal forests have stunted trees usually 3-15 m high
  • Old trees are critical for the growth and abundance of epiphytic lichens on their branches, which can decrease by a factor of 6 in managed forests. 
  • Old, dead trees, both standing, and on the ground, provide diverse habitats that are important for many species of birds, fungi and insects. 
  • Logging and other anthropogenic disturbances homogonize the landscape, leading to an abundance of young forests and a scarcity of older forests, while removing much of the dead wood, and render the forest vulnerable to human-ignited fires. 

Biodiversity

The diverse ecosystems, flora and fauna within the boreal forest contribute to the ecosystem services this biome provides. 

  • US$703 billion of services per year in Canada alone.
  • 60% of the world’s remaining surface freshwater is stored within the boreal forest, and the wetlands purify this water, filtering out contaminants.
  • Provides important breeding ground for birds from further south, and important for almost half of all North America’s bird species. 
  • Maintaining biodiversity leads to higher levels of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, berry production and game populations. 
  • Many indigenous communities are dependent on the ecological integrity of old growth boreal forests for medicinal plants, cultural practices and traditional livelihoods. 
  • These ecosystem services are likely at risk under a warming climate. 

PRIMARY TEMPERATE FORESTS 

Temperate forests harbour unique biodiversity and ecosystem services, including climate regulation, and are home to 108 Million hectares of remaining primary forest, or 9% of the global total, highlighting the urgency of protecting what’s left. 

Big, Old Trees 

Loss of big, old trees is a global concern as fewer of them, and the primary and intact forest landscapes that harbor them, remain due to logging and other threats. 

  • Trees can tower to >100 meters (coast redwood, mountain ash) with a base circumference of >9 meters (giant sequoia, New Zealand Kauri tree). 
  • Trees can live for over a thousand years, continuously accumulating and storing carbon, while helping to regulate the climate through forest-atmospheric feedbacks.
  • Dead big trees provide shade and moisture for seedlings, nest sites for birds and mammals, serve as biological legacies jumpstarting forest renewal, and provide cultural and spiritual connections for people.
  • Buffer human communities from floods and droughts.
  • Are irreplaceable in human lifetimes and need to be protected from logging. 
  • Old growth wet temperate forests are far more resistant to drought and fire than logged forests.

Biodiversity

Primary wet temperate forests (deciduous, evergreen, broadleaf, conifer, mixed) harbor diverse communities that experience distinct seasonal changes affecting productivity, ecosystem services, and migratory species, especially birds. 

  • Include both exceptionally biodiverse and productive older forests and complex early seral forests created by natural disturbance regimes ranging in frequency and intensity including intense events that kill most of the trees in an area. 
  • Lichen richness is among the highest of any ecosystem.
  • Forest carnivore assemblages and complex food-web dynamics are fully present and functional.  
  • Keystone species, like anadromous salmon, connect terrestrial and marine environments through nutrient cycling of spawned-out salmon carcasses. 
  • Small mammals feed on below-ground fungi, aiding in spore dispersal of mycorrhizae, allowing plants to take up nutrients efficiently
  • Maintaining biodiversity leads to higher levels of ecosystem integrity and services such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling, and water filtration and regulation. 
  • Temperate forests cover roughly one-third of original extent vs. 45-65% for tropical and boreal forests, respectively.