The photograph shows upslope to Dunoon Road, Wye River, 9 September 2013. The 2015 fire burnt through this area and destroyed houses on Dunoon Road.
The issues surrounding what constitutes good forest management and global warming or climate change are vexed and at times polarise debate. Whatever one’s attitude towards climate change or global warming, it is a key driver of current policy decisions. To influence that policy we need to explore the effect of predicted increasing frequency and severity of drought on forest fuels.
The Howitt Society
The Howitt Society’s mission is the pursuit of effective management of the Australian bush. Given the parts of the IPCC’s 6th Report mentioned below and the backstories contained in this post it should be obvious that good forest management includes selective harvesting and milling of our hardwood forests to thin them out and provide for succession and a staged forest as promoted by Professor Patrick Baker, Professor of Silver Culture and Forest Ecology, The University of Melbourne, which logically includes landscape-scale fuel reduction burning.
Professor Baker’s lecture at the Royal Society:
Somewhat hidden away in the IPCC 6th Report, Chapter 5, page 106, commencing at Line 40:
Let’s look at a few of the reports, etc, behind those two paragraphs. First “Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), January 27, 2020”.
“Summary: A material revolution replacing cement and steel in urban construction by wood can have double benefits for climate stabilization. First, it can avoid greenhouse gas emissions from cement and steel production. Second, it can turn buildings into a carbon sink as they store the CO2 taken up from the air by trees that are harvested and used as engineered timber.”
Extract from the Introduction: “Climate change is altering plant communities globally (Franklin, Serra-Diaz, Syphard, & Regan, 2016), and it presents substantial challenges for the management of forests in particular (Keenan, 2015; Millar, Stephenson, & Stephens, 2007). The aggregate effects of climate change—the complex interactions created by precipitation variability and seasonality, temperature change, and along with changes to disturbance and forest regeneration are widely expected to drive fast ecosystem transitions (Grimm et al., 2013). Most landscapes are managed, but the consequences of climate change are dependent on past and present human influences and pressures. Fire suppression and changing forest management practices in western US forests have led to widespread densification (Hessburg & Agee, 2003) and, in turn, to increased vulnerability to drought, insects (Fettig, Mortenson, Bulaon, & Foulk, 2019) and fire (Kolb et al., 2016). However, management actions such as mechanical thinning, prescribed fire and allowing wildfires to burn are all approaches that can restore forests and improve their resilience to disturbance and climate change (North et al., 2015).”
“Abstract:Forest ecosystems provide important ecological services and resources, from habitat for biodiversity to the production of environmentally friendly products, and play a key role in the global carbon cycle. Humanity is counting on forests to sequester and store a substantial portion of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide produced globally. However, the unprecedented rate of climate change, deforestation, and accidental importation of invasive insects and diseases are threatening the health and productivity of forests, and their capacity to provide these services. Knowledge of genetic diversity, local adaptation, and genetic control of key traits is required to predict the adaptive capacity of tree populations, inform forest management and conservation decisions, and improve breeding for productive trees that will withstand the challenges of the 21st century. Genomic approaches have well accelerated the generation of knowledge of the genetic and evolutionary underpinnings of nonmodel tree species, and advanced their applications to address these challenges. This special issue of Evolutionary Applications features 14 papers that demonstrate the value of a wide range of genomic approaches that can be used to better understand the biology of forest trees, including species that are widespread and managed for timber production, and others that are threatened or endangered, or serve important ecological roles. We highlight some of the major advances, ranging from understanding the evolution of genomes since the period when gymnosperms separated from angiosperms 300 million years ago to using genomic selection to accelerate breeding for tree health and productivity. We also discuss some of the challenges and future directions for applying genomic tools to address long-standing questions about forest trees.”
Taking the use of timber for building construction further, two of many websites — note that The Howitt Society has no affiliation or is otherwise connected with the timber industry:
The National Construction Code 2016 Volume One (NCC), Building Code of Australia, Class 2 to Class 9 Buildings, allows the use of timber construction systems under the Deemed-to-Satisfy (DTS) Provisions for Class 2 (a building containing two or more sole-occupancy units (SOUs) each being a separate dwelling), Class 3 (residential buildings, other than buildings of Class 1 or 2, which are a common place of long-term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons, including hotels) and Class 5 (offices) buildings up to 25 metres in effective height, known as mid-rise construction …
Introduction: “Wood is one of the oldest materials that man has used to build their homes and take refuge from the weather. Wood does not only fulfill a structural function – being highly resistant to earthquakes – but it also provides interior thermal comfort, as well as adding a warm look and feel to a building, while easily adapting to natural environments.”
From the discourse: “Fire resistance ratings based on the ASTM E119 [American Standard Test Method] fire exposure can now be demonstrated for wood used as an exposed structural member or as part of a fire-rated assembly. For exposed wood members, all wood initially chars at about the same rate until a char layer is formed. After a brief period of fire exposure, the rate of char formation becomes relatively constant, despite a gradually increasing furnace temperature. Burning of large wood members creates a protective insulating char layer on the exposed surfaces, protecting the inner core, which continues to maintain its nominal strength and stiffness properties under near-ambient temperatures over long-duration fire exposures. For wood protected by a membrane, such as gypsum wallboard, charring of the wood will begin at the initial charring rate when the membrane fails, but it will similarly slow as the char layer is created.”
Serious consideration needs to be given to this charring function as part of a suite of building fire protection measures in the context of Australian hardwoods milled for building materials.
On sustainability Sustainable timber is the ultimate renewable. As trees grow, carbon is captured from the atmosphere and stored in the timber. And when it’s harvested for building materials some of that carbon continues to be stored in those hardwood building materials.
Maximising carbon capture and retention depends on proper forest management!