Tombstone Creek - Rob Blakers
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 October 2006.