Climate change report should signal change in forestry species and management

This week saw the release of the IPCC report pointing to significant trends in climatic effects on New Zealand farming and forestry. One trend was that climate change is expected to increase the number of days with very high and extreme fire weather. This has equally severe implications for forestry as we know it in New Zealand.

The principal plantation forestry tree in New Zealand is pinus radiata, a pyrophyte or fire tree that ecologically expects to undergo burning every so often to allow genetic diversity to flourish by regrowth of fresh trees from a mixture of crossed pine seed. The tinder of pine needles that builds under pine trees, instead of faster decomposition as occurs in most indigenous or deciduous exotic forest systems, is part of that process.

That the eastern and northern parts of New Zealand are expected to become drier and more at risk of significant fires should be a consideration for future forestry plantings. Planting permanent canopy systems of selected mixed indigenous and deciduous exotic tree species could heavily reduce risk of wasteful and dangerous forest fires, improve carbon sequestration and other environmental processes, and be part of a transition towards a higher value timber products industry.

Currently pinus radiata’s dominance limits best value options and perpetuates environmentally damaging forestry management. The Ministry of Primary Industries has a report that shows damage to coastal fisheries from sedimentation including from forestry land disturbance. The forestry industry suggests that even current strong prices for export logs are not enough to move to less damaging harvest methods that would reduce sediment runoff. Better forestry methods with higher returns could happen with government support of a new vision for the sector that includes different and a more fire resistant species mix. I will report soon on the lagging National Environment Standard – Plantation Forestry that cabinet has stalled on because of cost – benefit ratios that industry doesn’t like but mean more fisheries habitats are impacted.

4 Comments Posted

  1. We don’t need vast plantings of monoculture forests to feed the industrialised energy hungry machine.

    Long term that is an unsustainable environmentally damaging model.

    The use of animal husbandry to provide profit for a few but mainly for the same old few, is riddled with fish hooks of many kinds.

    Firstly our cultivated Western diet containing a multitude of animal product including dairy, meat, eggs and many by products linked with our rampant diseases. If you are unfamiliar with this aspect then do yourself a favour and look at the stats.
    There is also a wealth of solid information about avoiding the common killers using a plant based diet, as well as the industry sponsored usual sponsored denials.

    Animal husbandry generally yields much less food per hectare than plant based food which typically produces approximately 15 times as much nutrition. It is a wasteful practice.

    It takes 11 times as much energy to deliver a kilo of meat on the table as it does a kilo of plant food. Currently this is mainly energy from fossil fuels.
    Close to 100 times the water is needed to grow and process that kilo of meat compared with a kilo of plant food.
    Vast areas of old forest are being cleared globally to provide grazing for the domestic animal species destined for the dinner table.
    Domestic animal populations have expanded exponentially for many decades and now produce about 15% of world methane emissions and near the same for CO2 emissions. On the other hand plant foods production reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Domestic animals also cause the growing pollution of nitrates and other damaging toxicity into the soil, water table, streams and rivers.

    Trees are extremely important for many reasons to do with soil health, erosion, shelter for other plants, retention of water, temperature control, local climate control, habitat for biodiversity of wildlife and small scale traditional renewable fuel source.

    Permaculture with a strong presence of trees is the way forward for NZs changing climate. The trees grown locally for building materials should be harvested and processed locally.

    Cleared farmland for grazing is a relic of our destructive past.

    We don’t have long to make the change.

  2. “Better forestry methods with higher returns could happen with government support of a new vision for the sector that includes different and a more fire resistant species mix.”

    How much would this policy cost the tax payer?

  3. Our whole East Coast was duped by the promise of local jobs, and environmental remediation post Cyclone Bola. Instead we got wall to wall pine trees in an open air factory, with unsafe, deadly work practices wringing the last dollar out of our young men and women for the offshore profits of the owners.

    We also suffered decimation of our rural communities as farms were converted, loss of schools, increased fire hazard, and increased traffic peril as our fragile roads are torn up by heavy logging trucks.

    In my daydreams, I wait for the disease or pest that will thrive in this ecologically sterile situation.

    Of course we need species diversification – that’s what makes a real forest.

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