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Programme one: The Monitor - Issue two (July 2006)

Newsletter of the Managing and Monitoring for Growth and Health research programme of the CRC for Forestry

ISSUE TWO: JULY 2006

From the programme manager

Michael Battaglia

The CRC for Temperate Hardwood Forestry started in 1991, was renewed as the CRC for Sustainable Production Forestry in 1997 and of course has developed into the CRC for Forestry now. CSIRO, the University of Tasmania and Gunns (formerly APPM) have been along for the full ride. Back in 1991 hardwood plantations were the new thing with the great land grab about to start. Through successive CRCs we hel­ped to develop that resource, identified how to get it growing and how to maintain it. The issues that we are dealing with in this CRC reflect the success of that resource development and extension programme. Now the issues across the CRC (with regards to plantations, notwithstanding that the CRC has a broader brief encompassing native forests and some NRM issues) are about the effect and impact of these plantations on landscape and social values, generating new products from a resource that was primarily established for pulpwood, about finding new species and new regions for planting and, the principal focus of RP1, growing the resource for maximum return (and sustaining not just the current growth rates, but sustaining increasing production) with minimum risk and environment impact. If I was to try to encapsulate the thrust of RP1 it would be bio-information - how can we capture information about our environment and forests and how can we use this information to make wiser decisions?

So how did the first year go? I think we have built a solid foundation with staff and experimental sites in place. With new members and contributions and a new project starting up this year, project leaders will need to build the new in-kind contributions into activities. I think the biggest challenge in the coming year will be to incorporate what has been offered as in-kind from industry partners. The development of rolling 12 month operations plans (the first of which was delivered at the PCC meeting in July) should provide a means for tagging in-kind to tasks.

It was great to get together at the annual research meeting in Creswick, Victoria. Clearly our work programme impressed the external reviewers, though I did pick up some concern about delivery on the way to longer term goals. I have no doubts that we will see a lot for intermediate outputs - in Jon Osborne's PSC presentation and in Neil Sims' PCC presentation we saw how remote sensing is already able to complement existing native forest inventory. Nevertheless I think it is important for all project leaders to continue to work with industry partners through the PSCs to ensure that all contributors can understand the value of our research projects.

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What's on

  1. The RP1 website is in the process of being revamped and updated by Maria Ottenschlager and Taylor Bildstein. Check it out. I'd like to see us use this to share information. Contact Taylor Bildstein or myself if you have material that you want to put up to share with other CRC members - remember we can restrict access of particular material to particular CRC groups.
  2. We now have an agreed timetable for PSCs and PCCs - you can find details in the minutes of the Creswick PCC meeting on the CRC for Forestry website (Only members of the RP1 PCC and PSC groups will be able to download this zip file).
  3. The exeternal review report for research programme one, by David Whitehead, is available for members of the CRC for Forestry to view on the members' website.

Monitoring science news

Most projects are deep into data collection. With most post-doctoral and PhD positions filled it is all happening out in the forest. Project 1.1.2 and 1.2.2 have been out in the field again at Green Hills not only assessing ground-based validation techniques for forest health assessment but also solving the problem of television viewing in remote areas. Project 1.1.3 has delivered on promises to show the effectiveness of airborne laser scanning (ALS) for stream location. The 1.3 Modelling Vegetation Competition group report on a trip to talk to New Zealand colleagues on their weed work and they talk about a field day at the open air forestry laboratory at Pittwater. In 1.1.1 Site Evaluation Neil McKenzie has got a promotion, though perhaps he'd rather not have!

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Project news

Jody Bruce: 1.1.1 Site evaluation

Neil Sims: 1.1.2 Monitoring of forest condition with multi-spectral and hyper-spectral remote-sensing, and 1.2.2 Measuring and managing forest health

Rob Musk: 1.1.3 Remote sensing of forest inventory

Tony O'Grady: 1.3 Modelling and Information Integration

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ARC project news

RP1 is closely aligned with two ARC projects that started in the CRC-SPF 8th year:

  1. "Cellular automata model of forest stands to predict size-class distribution and survival." Read Tony O'Grady's newsletter for highlights (Only members of research programme one will be able to download this document. Members will need to register for access to the members' website).
  2. "Determining generic indicators of stress in eucalypt leaves for application to the remote sensing of canopy condition and productivity modelling". Some early results from Karen Barry show that remote sensing for evaluation of canopy condition in plantation eucalypts is a realistic option for forest managers in the near future:

Crown-scale evaluation of spectral indices for defoliated and discoloured eucalypts

Remote sensing for evaluation of canopy condition in plantation eucalypts is a realistic option for forest managers in the near future. To achieve this, reliable and robust methods of spectral analysis must be developed through studies of reflectance spectra of stressed eucalypts. This involves developing and testing spectral indices which are used to "reduce" the information from the whole spectra to key wavelengths which correlate well to specific vegetation properties or biochemicals.

Research by Dr Karen Barry in the ARC Linkage project, titled "Determining generic indicators of stress in eucalypt leaves for application to the remote sensing of canopy condition and productivity modelling", has begun testing the effects of common symptoms of stress on reflectance spectra. Using a novel crown-scale approach, factors such as defoliation, discolouration and the effect of background surface (such as soil type) could be tested in a controlled way. In this study, indices based on the "red edge" wavelengths (680-740nm) had excellent potential to discern vegetation differences including species and stress effects whilst not being affected by soil type. The red-green index was best correlated to the proportion of red leaves of stressed plants and may be useful as a generic index to detect the stress that appears as red discolouration, as it was not affected by species differences in this study. Defoliation from the top of crowns could be detected with a range of spectral indices but when the same amount of foliage was lost from the bottom of the crown it was undetectable.

Of the indices tested, some use narrow bands (e.g. red edge indices) which can only be obtained with hyperspectral remote sensing data (e.g. CASI) while others are broad-band (e.g. NDVI or the red-green index) and can be determined with multispectral instruments (e.g. airborne digital multispectral camera or high resolution satellite data such as Quickbird). At present it is the multispectral instruments that are most affordable for routine use at a plantation-scale.

A range of ongoing studies at the crown and leaf scale will expand these initial results. Leaf-scale studies are providing more detailed analysis of relationships between reflectance and leaf structure or biochemicals such as chlorophyll and anthocyanins in stressed eucalypts.

- Karen Barry.

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Industry insights

An opinion piece from Glen Samsa, Great Southern Plantations
Not so short-term plantation forestry

In the last decade we've seen much excitement in the plantation forestry sector with advent of the Kyoto Protocol. In many cases the potential carbon economy the protocol created was seen as a mechanism to make plantation forestry more attractive as an investment, and extend plantation forestry into regions considered marginal for plantation forestry, creating many social and environmental benefits. Unfortunately, many of the carbon commodity opportunities that the Kyoto Protocol promised have not materialised in Australia, at least. That was until the Kyoto compliant and Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) administered NSW Government Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme was introduced recently. Carbon fixed by compliant plantation forests in NSW is now a sellable commodity in that market place. There are many issues associated with selling carbon into Kyoto compliant schemes, and the issue of permanence is among these. That is, once you sell a piece of carbon you have to guarantee its existence for 100 years. This in effect turns a 10 year forestry business into a 100 year one, as such many risks and uncertainties exists. Comprehensive and easy-to-use process-based models that are able to deal with the complexities of multi-rotation sites and climate regimes are integral to understanding the risks and uncertainties associated with the permanence requirement for carbon. For example, an integrated process-based modelling framework that helps plantation managers understand the impacts of today's management decisions on a forest's ability to fix carbon in future decades is essential. Moreover, process-based models will be integral to understanding the impacts of climate change on future carbon stocks. Research Programme One is exciting in many respects and has the ability to add much value to plantation forestry in Australia, and its ability to help contribute to "carbon forestry" (not often considered) is one of them.

- Glen Samsa.

For the next edition feel free to provide an industry perspective (a short piece) on science or practise relevent to project activities. Please send your submission ideas to Michael Battaglia.

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Quips, comments and questions

The programme would like to announce its first deliverable - we congratulate Darius Culvenor and Bronwyn on the birth of daughter Zoe. Anyone who knows Darius' work habits will know that he will be a natural for the nocturnal rigours of being a Dad.

Libby Pinkard, who has been working for the University of Tasmania in Project 1.2, has taken up a position with Ensis. However she has not escaped the CRC and will carry on providing science input into the 'Managing for forest health'.

Audrey Quentin, a PhD student in "1.2 Managing and sustaining" has recently come to us from France. The words to the La Marseillaise appeared in the tea room after France made it to the final of the world cup, but alas with Italy's triumph they remain unsung!

For the next edition feel free to send in short comments about project, programme or industry activity that will be of interest to programme members. Please send your submission ideas to Michael Battaglia.

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Guest spot

The pulp and paper industry and forest research in Brazil

by Dr Auro Almeida, Senior Research Scientist, Ensis - forests
(Ensis: the joint forces of CSIRO and Scion)

The pulp and paper industry in Brazil is growing as fast as the Eucalyptus plantations in that country (very fast!) and has become much more competitive than in the northern hemisphere. According to the Brazilian Pulp and Paper Association, Brazil has around 220 pulp and paper companies, generating 108,000 jobs. These companies planted 1.7 million hectares of which 75% are Eucalyptus species. Brazil's pulp and paper industry exported US$3.4 billion in 2005, representing a growth of 17% compared with 2004 (Bracelpa, 2006).

The main reasons for the success of the Brazilian industry are based upon a combination of factors such as: favourable climate conditions, low cost of production with a constant reduction of cost per produced unit, constant modernisation, high-technology, and an increasingly large investment in forest, pulp and paper research.

In terms of forest research, most of the effort and investment has been applied to improving breeding and genetics, with very good results. However, during recent years the research areas are changing due to new market requirements and globalisation. Questions about forest sustainability, environmental concerns and certification processes have become part of the industry's reality. New investments or expansions must consider new factors such as landscape management, environmental fragility, the potential forest productivity over several rotations and, not less important, the social aspects. The industry has begun to consider the full process of production and how it is possible to manage natural resources efficiently and with a long-term perspective. It has started to understand that the investment in forest research is much more than just breeding trees. The use of new technologies and advanced tools - such as high resolution remote sensing, precision silviculture and process-based modelling - start to give a new perspective on decision making processes and the future of some these companies. Some companies have already integrated forestry research with the science of the pulp and paper mill process. This includes a focus upon the needs of the paper producers and other stakeholder demands. Other companies are yet to take up this approach. Companies that concentrate their efforts upon operational costs only may have problems surviving in this very competitive sector.