Alarm as ancient trees die

Ecologistshave uncovered signs of the toll climate change is taking locally, ahead of a forum exploring how Bendigo can deal with a warmer world.

Ecologist Damien Cook is one of the speakers at the forum, which takes placeat the Capital Theatre next Wednesday.

Last Friday he and fellow ecologistKarl Just visitedat Bell Swamp, north of Maldon.

They were alarmedby the numberof trees that had died in the swamp.

LOST FOREVER: Damien Cook says climate change is altering the region’s ecosystems and decimating plant species.

“Trees die all the time. It’s a natural occurrence.but so many dying at once indicates environmental change,” Mr Cook said.

“These trees were aged between 300 and 500 years and had lived through countless floods and droughts.

“They’ve died as a consequence of recent extreme weather events – the millennium drought followed by the massive flood of 2011.”

Mr Just said erratic rainfall was causing entire ecosystems to change.

“These wetlands have evolved with more gentle winter and spring rainfall patterns and now,” he said.

“It is June in a year of average rainfall and yet Bell Swamp is dry.”

Meanwhile, at the top of Mount Alexander, ecologist Paul Foreman said trees were not the only things dying.

Mr Foreman said Mount Alexander is also the last remaining site in the world forsmall flowering plant called Ballantinia.

“Ballantinia relies on damp moss mats. As the conditions become drier, suitable sites are shrinking. The climate pressure on these plants is here, it’s a real phenomenon,” he said.

GONE: Karl Just and Damien Cook ponder the demise of this tree in Bell Swamp, south of Bendigo.

Forum to explore Bendigo’s climate challengesForum organiser Jeroen van Veen said it was important central Victorians discussed the challenges climate change posed.

“The reason we started organising this forum was that we were sitting around the table saying that no-one was talking about climate change. We found that surprising given this isan election year,” he said.

“A few of us travel around a lot and we are always being struck by how much the region is drying out. We see signs of iteverywhere.”

He said Wednesday’s forum would lookat the latest climate modelling.

But there would also be a strong focus on central Victoria, with CSIRO scientist Penny Whetton to explain how central Victoria’s rainfall and weather could be affected.

“Bendigo is in a high fire danger area. We are a city in a forest, which makes this a vulnerable place. Penny will discuss the impact a drier climate could have on fire prone areas.”

Mr van Veen said Mr Cook would discuss the impact of climate change on the region’s ecological systems.

The Future of Bendigo in a Warming Climate Forum takes place at 7pmnextWednesday at the Capital Theatre.

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