Tech & Science : 'Revenues not restoration': Scientists warn NSW tree-planting scheme does more harm than good - PressFrom - Australia
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Tech & Science 'Revenues not restoration': Scientists warn NSW tree-planting scheme does more harm than good

01:50  27 may  2019
01:50  27 may  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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A regeneration project is underway at NSW 's Capertee National Park and environmentalists say the volume of trees is boosting State Government coffers but could threaten native plants and species.

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There are fears national parks in NSW are being damaged by a revenue-making tree-planting scheme, after revegetation works were carried about in the Capertee National Park.

'Revenues not restoration': Scientists warn NSW tree-planting scheme does more harm than good© Provided by ABC News Ecologist Deb Stevenson says the replanting is too dense.

About three hours' drive west of Sydney, Capertee National Park was a working cattle property until 2010, when it was purchased by the State Government and turned into a protected area.

But because of overgrazing, the National Park and Wildlife Service (NPWS) ordered habitat restoration works there.

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But in some cases it could do more harm than good , according to Iowa State University ecologist To illustrate what they call “the tyranny of trees ,” Veldman and colleagues took locations mapped as opportunities for forestation in the Atlas of Forest Landscape Restoration Opportunities, published by

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The project was carried out by a company called CO2 Australia, which used heavy machinery to plough terraces into the hilly landscape and planted lots of native trees closely together.

The outcome has worried scientists, including ecologist Deb Stevenson, who has previously worked for the NPWS.

"The trees are too close together," she said.

"They haven't planted much understory and basically it's going to end up looking like a plantation, a forest plantation.

"It looks to me like a revegetation project that they might do on a very degraded mine site … which isn't what it is."

The NPWS said the program was the first of its kind for a conservation agency in Australia and that it was proving to be highly successful.

CO2 Australia said concerns about overplanting were addressed in the project's design, which allowed for the natural die-off of some trees.

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The Capertee National Park is one of the few places in Australia where the critically endangered regent honeyeater breeds, adding to concerns about the planting scheme.

"This park supports a great array of threatened woodland animals and plants," said ecologist Debbie Andrew, another former NPWS officer.

"The densities of the trees being put into the ground — 800 trees per hectare — is far in excess of what the CSIRO recommends of 30 mature trees per hectare."

The NPWS said the environmental plantings would benefit biodiversity conservation in NSW, and the plantings covered only 2 per cent of the park.

It said the habitat and foraging needs of the regent honeyeater were carefully considered in the planting design.

$2 billion 'funding opportunity'

The plantings in Capertee National Park were funded by a $1.5 million State Government grant.

They also generate revenue, because its carbon credits are sold off via the Commonwealth Government's Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).

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Scientists say the forests should be left to flourish on their own, and alien plants should not be planted inside. According to Kerala Forest Research Institute scientist Dr T.V. Sajeev, the planting He adds that if teak is a surface feeder, plants like eucalyptus and acacia grow deeper and absorb more water.

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Geomorphologist Brett Stevenson said under the scheme, NPWS gets paid for the amount of carbon sequestration.

Carbon sequestration is carbon that has been trapped and stored, which can help to reduce global warming.

"The more sequestration you get, the more return you get," he said.

A 2018 policy document, presented to the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council, and obtained by the ABC, suggested planting projects across 30 sites in NSW could be worth almost $60 million in revenue over 10 years.

The same document described tree planting on degraded land in all national parks as a potential "funding opportunity" worth $2 billion.

So far, the NPWS has rolled out similar planting schemes in another 16 national parks in NSW.

Twelve are registered under the ERF, generating earnings for the state.

But some scientists are worried the projects are more about making money, not helping the environment.

"The main goal of the project is to actually plant as many trees as you can fit into the ground," Ms Andrew said.

"It doesn't appear to be a project about habitat restoration."

The NPWS said registering the projects under the ERF would result in additional revenue for public land management in NSW.

It said it demonstrated the NSW Government's commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions.

The NPWS said it had been corresponding with a member of the public who expressed concerns about the tree-planting activity, and that offers to meet on-site to discuss the project had not been accepted.

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