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Uptake - Issue 1 - Welcome

by Don White, Research Project Leader of Project 4.1 'Water quantity and quality'

Welcome to the first issue of Uptake, an e-newsletter about forest management, water quantity and quality research in the CRC for Forestry.

Water security, supply and allocation in our changing climate are major national policy and research priorities. It is also important that we understand the effect of forest management on water quality and on the biodiversity that lives in and near forest streams. The relationship between forest management and water is a huge area; a key challenge for the CRC for Forestry is to focus our work so that we add to the big picture on forests and water in a way that is relevant to our partners and members.

Don White and Mark Hunt

Don White (left) and Mark Hunt (right)

 

Our focus should be on understanding the relationships amongst forest management, water outcomes and the wood products and other environmental services delivered from forests. Research relevant to this broad objective is happening primarily in Project 4.1 'Water quantity and quality' and in Research Programme 1 'Managing and monitoring for growth and health'. As leader of Project 4.1, I will be working closely with Mark Hunt, Programme Manager of Research Programme 1, to integrate work on forests and water across the programmes, and we will report relevant results, activities and outcomes from across the CRC for Forestry programmes here in Uptake.

CRC for Forestry research on forests and water

Over recent months I have met with subproject leaders in Research Programme 4 'Trees in the landscape' and Research Programme 1 'Managing and monitoring for growth and health' and visited people and field sites to get an overview of research on forests and water.

CRC for Forestry research on forests and water seems to fall within four main categories:

1 Plot scale water balance and silvicultural decision support

  • This work in Programme 1 builds on a lot of work in the previous CRCs for Temperate Hardwood and Sustainable Production Forestry. Daniel Mendham and Tony O’Grady will produce a decision support system that will quantify the effect of plantation management on growth, water use, water use efficiency and drought risk for first and second rotation eucalypt plantations.

2 Sustainability of plantations for managing land and river salinity

  • This work is focused in south-western Western Australia (WA) where Stuart Crombie is monitoring changes in groundwater depth and root-zone salinity in plantations designed to reduce the mobilisation of salt in the headwaters of important river systems in WA.

3 Linking models of tree growth and water use to models of distributed flow to quantify wood x carbon x water trade-offs at intermediate scales

  • A number of our project scientists (Pat Lane, Phil Smethurst, Auro Almeida and Stuart Crombie) are using hydrologic models linked in some way to models of forest growth and water balance, to estimate forest water use, and predict the impacts of growth and management on water yield.  This work includes testing, validating and improving the parameterisation of various models. This aspect of our work represents a significant opportunity for integration across subprojects.

4 Quantifying the effect of forest management on water quality and stream habitat and biodiversity

  • Philip Smethurst is quantifying the change in stream flow and water quality (turbidity, temperature, EC, pH, DOM and nutrients – particularly N and P) at a site near Cygnet (Tasmania) to test the potential for riparian plantation establishment to improve water quality outcomes in grazing systems. Harvesting effects will be monitored at other sites.
  • Gary Sheridan and Pat Lane (Victoria) and Sandra Roberts (Tasmania) are all working on how water quality responds to native forest and plantation management, including fuel-reduction burning and selective harvesting strategies.
  • Leon Barmuta, Sarah Munks and the team at the Forest Practices Authority are working closely with Sandra Roberts to assess the effectiveness of elements of the Tasmanian Forest Practices System for protecting key stream values.
  • Leon Barmuta is quantifying the change in the diversity and abundance of key stream organisms.

Overall this represents a strong core of research on forests and water.

New project responding to the National Water Initiative

One of my first jobs as leader of Project 4.1 was to develop a project to strengthen the CRC’s contribution to understanding the effect of plantations on stream flow and the capacity of water planners and plantation growers to respond to the National Water Initiative.  The CRC for Forestry already boasts a strong core of work on stand-scale plantation water use and at the catchment scale there is a strong existing capacity (through state water departments, CSIRO Land and Water and the eWater CRC for example) to model the effect of afforestation on stream flow. Land acquisition and forest management decisions often require a capacity to quantify the potential offsite impacts of plantations at intermediate scale and to assess the trade-offs between water use and the other values of forests. With Auro Almeida and Jenny Carter I have developed a new subproject to provide this capacity. This project will start soon as you can read more about it later in this issue of Uptake.

Contact

If you have any observations, comments, questions or suggestions please feel free to contact me directly. I hope you enjoy this first issue of Uptake and I look forward to an ongoing and healthy dialogue with the community of the CRC for Forestry.