Felled old-growth tree ‘500 years old’

A Victorian environment group has radiocarbon-tested a felled old-growth eucalypt and the result suggests the giant gum was at least 500 years old.

The battle to save the old-growth forests of Brown Mountain in Victoria’s far east has been waged by environmentalists since 1989.

When another coupe was cut down early this year, logging opponents decided to send a sample of a felled tree to the University of Waikato in New Zealand for radiocarbon dating tests.

Jill Redwood is the coordinator of the lobby group, Environment East Gippsland.

“Considering that ancient trees like these have been chainsawed down every day across south-east Australia, no-one has ever been able to give a definitive age on the trees,” she said.

“We just thought it would be really interesting to try and get an absolute age for these trees.”

The test results said there was an 84 per cent chance the tree was between 500 and 600 years old.

Botanist Steve Mueck has worked for the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment and is now a consultant in the private sector.

He says radiocarbon dating of eucalypts is unusual and the result in this case is significant.

“Current forest managements practices are looking at harvesting on rotation times in the vicinity of 80 to 120 years with the perception that that’s a particularly long period of time,” he said.

“Now it is, I suppose, in the context of a human lifetime, but it is a very, very short period of time in comparison to the age in which many of the components that live in these forests can in fact get to in a natural system.”

‘Land giants of the planet’

Ms Redwood says her group is hoping the radiocarbon test result may help their campaign to save some of the remaining giant trees.

“We’re finding trees of 13 and 14 metres around and it is hard to believe that they exist,” she said.

“They have got the bulk of a blue whale. They are just the land giants of the planet.

“If this was a human artefact, it would be an incredibly precious antique, but because it is a tree they just think it can be cut down and sell it off for a song and most of it goes to wood chips.

“We are hoping like hell that they are going to start realising that they can’t replace these trees in the cycle of a logging cut. At the moment they are saying they are protecting a certain per cent so that is OK and they can log the rest.”

Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings was unavailable to speak to AM.

His spokesman referred to the state-owned commercial forestry business VicForests, saying the decision to harvest the coupe at Brown Mountain was made by VicForests as Victoria’s independent forestry agency.

Originally Published at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-04-02/felled-old-growth-tree-500-years-old/1638514

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