According to the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA), a ground-breaking set of experimental ‘ecosystem accounts’ shows just how wasteful the logging of public native forests is.
Ecosystem accounts can help politicians make the right choice when making land-use decisions by ensuring that a wide variety of environmental benefits are considered—not just a single product or service.
The accounts, developed by scientists at the Australian National University for the Victorian Central Highlands, considered ecosystems, water, carbon, timber, biodiversity, tourism and agriculture. They considered both the value of ecosystem services, as well as the contribution to Victoria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The results are an eye opener: in regards ecosystem services (the value of products supplied by nature for free), water supply and agricultural provisioning are by far the most valuable, dwarfing all other services.
When GDP is considered things get really interesting: water and agriculture are again the most valuable at $2139 and $2477 per hectare (ha) respectively. Timber is worth just $29/ha. Furthermore, logging reduces the carbon stocks of forests by 143 tonnes/ha. At the current carbon price of $12.25 this lost carbon is worth $1755/ha—60 times the value of the timber. Tourism was worth $354/ha.
Key findings relevant to biodiversity were that logging reduced the number of hollow-bearing trees by 70% (compared to 42% loss from fire), and that logging on rotations less than 120 years will result in no recruitment of hollow-bearing trees, due to the time needed for hollows to form. The authors didn’t attempt to place a monetary value on wildlife.
NPA's Senior Ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney said: “the publication of these accounts is a huge and innovative step forward in evaluating the optimal use of public land,
“It’s clear that the current Coalition policy to simply extend the Regional Forest Agreements (20-year agreements between the state and federal governments that permit the logging of native forests) without evaluating a wider suite of options is blinkered,
“These accounts provide the Coalition—elected on a promise of innovation—with a huge opportunity to make a rational decision to both protect the environment and maximise the benefit to society from forests,
“The Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) were signed almost two decades ago and didn’t consider elements such as climate and water. Since then climate change has become the number one environmental and public policy challenge,
“We’re also witnessing the decline of native forest species like koalas, gliders as a result of logging,
“These accounts show that the trade-off between wildlife, water, carbon and timber means logging is just not worth it,
“We need a fresh start on native forest management, and the Coalition should begin by developing a full set of accounts for all RFA regions. Only then should any decision on the future of logging be made.”
Dr Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist
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