Saving Ludlow Tuart Forest

How deforestation is threatening the last existing Tuart forest ecosystem.


The Ludlow Tuart Forest is under threat from deforestation, with only 3 per cent remaining. Photo courtesy: Des Donelly, The Ludlow Tuart Forest Restoration Group

Deforestation is plaguing the Western Australia’s unique Ludlow Tuart Forest with just three per cent of the forest remaining, according to recent reports.

Located in the Tuart Forest National Park, 183km south of Perth, Ludlow Tuart Forest’s endangered native wildlife population, unique forest trails and natural beauty plays a large role in maintaining WA’s ecosystem and the South West tourism industry.

But what is the true impact of cutting down these precious trees and where does it stand in the grand picture of deforestation and climate change locally and globally?

Why is there just three per cent left?
The answer is humans.

A lot of the main causes of deforestation of the forest are man-made, with 80 to 86 per cent of the forest cleared for human purposes such as agriculture, mining and housing development, according to a Department of Environment and Energy report.

According to the Department of Parks and Wildlife, before the 1800’s the forest was home to many indigenous Noongar people who used the land for its plentiful water and resource of animal game.

The forest spanned more than 110,000 hectares from Jurien Bay in the north, to Busselton in the south.

During the 1800’s, many European colonists cleared large sections of the forest in order to use the land for housing, fuel, wood, cattle grazing and limestone deposits to support their communities.

Deforestation was very popular and the Tuart timber was used a lot during the 1800’s as the forest was right near the Busselton Jetty and could be easily exported. From 1919, the government stepped in and created the Forest Act, which made it the first State owned forest in the area, in order to preserve the forest for future timber cutting projects.

The forest would continue to be logged all the way until 1974, when logging stopped and the Government officially made the Ludlow Tuart Forest a national park in 1987, leaving it under state protections from logging.

At present, the Ludlow Tuart Forest now has 3,500 hectares, or just three per cent, remaining.

What is the significance of the Ludlow Tuart Forest?
According to the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s website, the Ludlow Tuart Forest is the last Tuart forest ecosystem existing in the world.

Home to a significant ecological community that can only be found in WA’s South West, the unique Tuart tree (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) provides a home and food source to many of the native wildlife including birds, pollinating insects and the now endangered Western Ringtail Possum that keep the ecosystem and environment alive.

What does deforestation do?

According to Pachamama Alliance, deforestation, like that of the Ludlow Tuart Forest, can do a range of things to the environment, with the main one being the destruction of the homes of plants and wildlife habitats which need the forest to survive.

Once habitat and vegetation become extinct or disappears, this loss of the ecosystem can lead to a string of effects such as the reduction of pollination and seed dispersal, which is an integral part of our food production according to a Sciencing article on deforestation.

Because the pollinating insects are gone, the crops that grow into our food don’t get pollinated and never start growing.

This means that deforestation has a dramatic impact on our survival as humans.

Climate change
Cutting down trees does not just have an impact on the environment and wildlife, but also has a range of impacts that effect the climate around us.

Some of the impacts cannot even be noticed by the human eye.

University of Western Australia plant biology professor Hans Lambers said approximately one-third of climate change came from cutting down trees.

“If you chop them down, that increases the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere which enhances the climate change,” Prof. Lambers said.

“The CO2 works as a blanket and it traps the heat that cannot escape into the atmosphere and makes the whole earth warmer.”

Global impact
According to the World Bank, the world has lost 1.3 million square kilometres of forest with so many world-known forests such as the Amazon, Gran Chaco Forest and the Congo Basin being affected.

A WWF fact sheet on tree clearing say that forests around the world are being cleared at a rate of 117,000 square kilometres a year.

What is being done?
Even though the Ludlow Tuart Forest is at three per cent, there is still hope.

The Ludlow Tuart Forest Restoration Group, a community-based organisation, are helping restore the forest one tree at a time.

Restoration group vice president Des Donnelly said their mission is to restore the Tuart Forest by planting tuart seedlings.

“It is important to restore the trees first, so we plant the Tuart seedlings first and allow them to grow for 30-40 years and allow them to grow a canopy,” Mr Donnelly said.

The group have completed their first year of planting and are planning to restore 185 hectares in the future.

With more than 450 registered members, Mr Donnelly said they were only getting bigger and the group needed all the volunteers it could get for in order to save the precious Tuart forest.