Friday Offcuts 19 May 2023
Click to Subscribe - It's FREE!Outrage to Optimism. Aptly named, the long-awaited recommendations from the ministerial inquiry into land use and forestry slash following Cyclone Gabrielle sweeping through the Wairoa and Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) regions were released as part of a detailed 44-page report last Friday. Controversially, the bulk of Hawke’s Bay that was also hit hard, hadn’t been included in the inquiry, but the recommendations relating to the future management of erodible hill country around the wider Hastings and Napier areas are likely to be applied.
In all, 90 findings and 49 recommendations were made. For the forestry industry, most had largely been expected. Included in the recommendations was a suggested halt to large-scale clear felling of forestry on erodible hill country, replacing it instead with a mosaic of staged logging or felling coupes, prohibition of plantation forestry on ‘extreme’ erosion-prone land, transitioning extreme erosion zones out of pasture and production forestry into permanent forests and increased plantation forestry setbacks from riparian areas. Coverage of the report, it’s findings and industry responses are included in this week’s lead story.
We’ve covered the innovation going on with heavy transport fleets looking to decarbonise their businesses. Next week, around 250 forestry and log transport operators will be meeting up in Rotorua, New Zealand for the eagerly awaited Wood Transport & Logistics 2023 event with a significant number of Australian forestry and log haulage companies coming across.
Two of the presenters at next week’s event leading innovation in the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel source, HW Richardson and Hiringa Energy both feature in a story this week. The first green hydrogen production and refuelling station in the South Island is expected to be operational by September. HWR is managing a fleet of 1,300 heavy trucks across the 50 businesses that it runs – about 15% of the country’s heavy trucks. Initially 10 trucks are being converted to the dual-fuel system and it’s aiming to get another 180 dual-system trucks on the road next year. And New Plymouth-based Hiringa Energy’s is expecting to have four North Island hydrogen refuelling sites operational by the end of this year. The switch from diesel powered log trucks is already well underway.
In last week’s issue we reported how NZ log prices had dropped 14 percent between March and April as China's usual seasonal increase in consumption failed to materialise. Comment was made that it was getting uneconomic for harvesting crews with prices getting down to levels where forest owners might just have to shut their gates. Increasingly it was proving tough on contractors who were trying to work on solutions to keep their people working.
This week’s log market update from Forest360 paints a similar picture. Continued inflation pressures have effectively added around 15% to the cost of production; resulting in forests located a distance from ports currently at, or below, break-even. And if looking at the country’s largest export market, China, there’s a gap of around 12% between our production costs and the theoretical increase in revenue from Chinese log buyers. There’s a consensus that Chinese demand isn’t what it once was, that NZ’s log supply needs to reduce, permanently, and unfortunately, that many harvest operations as a consequence of the current price structure, will be reduced or need to stop. And finally, breaking news (details below), China confirmed yesterday that it has lifted its ban on Australian log imports (worth annually around AU$600 million). That's it for this week.
This week we have for you:
China lifts ban on Australian log tradeThe Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) welcomes China’s decision to lift its quarantine ban on timber logs that has been in place for more than two years, Chief Executive Officer of AFPA Joel Fitzgibbon said.
“We welcome the news of China’s decision to lift its quarantine ban that will allow the export trade of timber logs to resume. China has been and will continue to be an important market for Australian timber and wood fibre export products. When the ban came into effect more than two years ago it caused a great deal of upheaval and uncertainty for many timber exporters and the broader forest sector and this resolution is welcomed,” Joel Fitzgibbon said.
“AFPA and log exporters have worked closely with the Albanese Government, especially Trade Minister Don Farrell, and the former Coalition Government on this issue, and we thank them for their efforts helping to resolve the quarantine issues that China faced importing logs from Australia.”
China voiced phytosanitary concerns and the Commonwealth worked on a range of measures including increased inspections of log consignments, monitoring during fumigation, re-inspections after fumigation and increased audits for all log exporters.
“I look forward to normalisation of trade relations with regards to the timber log trade and AFPA will work closely with our impacted members, other stakeholders and the Commonwealth to ensure a smooth transition back to normal trade following Thursday’s decision,” Joel Fitzgibbon concluded.
Further coverage on the announcement. China's ambassador to Canberra has confirmed his country will lift its ban on Australian timber imports, in another sign trade ties with Australia are slowly normalising. Since 2020, Australia's $1.6 billion annual timber trade with China has been suspended with Beijing citing quarantine risks. Ambassador Xiao Qian told reporters in Canberra yesterday morning the import ban had now been lifted.
Source: AFPA, ABC
Call to halt production forestry in erosion zonesProduction forestry should be stopped in extreme erosion zones around Wairoa and Gisborne, a damning inquiry into forestry slash and land use has found.
The NZ Government commissioned a ministerial inquiry into land use and forestry slash after Cyclone Gabrielle, concentrating on the Wairoa and Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) regions. Severe slips and erosion resulted in woody debris and silt washing onto land and down waterways in those areas, causing significant damage.
More than 10,000 Tairāwhiti people petitioned for land use to be better managed and helped lead to the inquiry. Controversially, the bulk of Hawke’s Bay such as the wider Hastings and Napier areas, were not included in the inquiry, despite large amounts of woody debris, including pine, washing down rivers and causing destruction in those areas.
Findings from the two-month inquiry were released in a report last Friday with 50 recommendations. That report has been titled Outrage to Optimism.
“We are not a Third World country. We heard from experts that the situation is perilous and the time to act is now. In their estimation we have five to 10 years to turn this environmental disaster around,” the report reads.
Tairawhiti experienced greater and more-widespread impact and damage than Wairoa, according to the report. “The panel found that the forest industry has lost its social licence in Tairawhiti due to a culture of poor practices — facilitated by the Gisborne District Council’s capitulation to the permissiveness of the regulatory regime — and its under-resourced monitoring and compliance,” the report reads. “Together, these factors have caused environmental damage, particularly to land and waterways, and they have put the health and safety of people and their environment at risk.”
The recommendations from the inquiry (for the two regions) included a call for an immediate halt to wide-scale clear felling of forestry and replace it with a mosaic of staged logging, to transition extreme erosion zones out of pasture and production forestry into permanent forest, and a broad package of government support for cleanup, infrastructure and economic development in the region.
“Any production on erodible hill country must be sustainable forestry and pasture practice, and extremely erodible land and gullies must be retired from production,” the report reads. There is also a recommendation for the establishment of a world-leading biodiversity credit scheme to incentivise permanent indigenous forests, piloted in the region.
“Our recommendations reflect the fear, anger and doubt, but also the hopes and aspirations we heard at the numerous hui we held in the Gisborne and Wairoa districts,” inquiry panel chairwoman Hekia Parata said. “We believe that, if these recommendations are implemented, they will deliver that better future the people need and deserve.”
In response to the report’s findings; the Eastland Wood Council said “This report outlines a clear series of recommendations and encourages greater collaboration across the board, including with iwi and mana whenua, and local and central government. We really welcome this, and we are committed to playing our part in the solution and leading improvements from within the industry.”
1. See EWC Media Release.
2. Aratu Forests, one of the largest forestry companies in Tairāwhiti, welcomed the release of the report calling it comprehensive, fair, and fulsome. See Aratu Forests Media Release.
3. And related to the aftermath of the February storms, Funding announced to clean up slash and debris in Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay.
Source: newstalkzb, Eastland Wood Council, Aratu Forests, Scoop
Land use inquiry not addressing wider issuesThe Forest Owners Association in New Zealand says the Ministerial Inquiry into land use in Tarāwhiti has a core of practical recommendations, but has not addressed some more difficult and fundamental issues. President, Grant Dodson says concentrating on changing forest harvest practices will not give protection against the massive climate threats and problems specific to using land in the fragile geology of the region.
Grant Dodson says he is working through the Inquiry’s recommendations, identifying the practical against the less than practical. The FOA will release that fine-tuned assessment in due course. “Unfortunately, the report has suffered from the short reporting time frame the Inquiry was given to get to potential solutions for the more difficult land use problems.”
“It reiterates some good ideas for changing harvest practices which have already been proposed or implemented. But it’s has failed to address what the whole region has to do about massive climate changes. There’s a risk of it being a “spray and walk away” report, with the grander gestures leading to unintended consequences because they are not grounded in an objective analysis.”
“For instance, the proposed restriction on harvesting area, might result in compulsorily isolated patches of old trees which get knocked down with the wind and finish up in the river causing more of a problem than when there was no restriction,” Grant Dodson says. “The most important point about the report though is that the Inquiry recognised this is a unique region and very few of the recommendations are applicable to the rest of New Zealand.”
“The report acknowledges the community’s anguish, but while talking about the complicated reality of landscape and climate, and farms and forests, it fails to address solutions in that complexity. There will be significant transitional consequences and impacts on the region’s economy and people – which the report dwells on, but doesn’t seem to fully appreciate.”
“It does not acknowledge that the local forest industry has already accepted where its responsibilities lie, and is cleaning up and changing – companies are playing and paying their part. The suggested Woody Debris Task Force of foresters and councils is a good idea. But, given the range of wood Gabrielle dumped into the rivers and what the future looks like, the Task Force should include participation by DoC and farmers as well.”
“All those in the region who live on the land, use it, or regulate it, need to address the growing issue of vast volumes of sediment and whole trees being swept into rivers in increasingly violent storms. Examination of woody debris after Gabrielle found only four percent of the wood deposited downstream in Hawke’s Bay came from harvesting pines.
“Most of the trees in places like Wairoa came from riparian plantings of willows and poplars, or native trees. The report ignored this.”
A response to the inquiry from the New Zealand Institute of Forestry can also be read here. They're deeply disappointed with the inquiry with it being focussed on forest wastes, rather than the much wider land use issues.
And the Forest Industry Contractors Association expressed their concern at the lack of clarity with contractors across the region already facing an uncertain future. They currently don’t have the luxury of time for any prolonged timeline for change. Read the FICA media release.
Source: Forest Owners Association, NZIF, FICA
Be quick for best rates - Environmental Forestry 2023The Forest Industry Engineering Association is pleased to announce the speaker programme details for the Environmental Forestry 2023 Conference running on 20-21 June in conjunction with their Premium Event Partner – Te Uru Rākau New Zealand Forest Service.
The diverse lineup of speakers will cover a range topics including:
- Overview of Post-Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery and Resilience of the Eastland Forestry Sector
- From Vision to Implementation - Experiences from a Landscape-scale Project
- Continuous Cover Forestry – Time to Adopt this International Practice
- Te Manahuna Aoraki: The Opportunity to Protect and Enhance a Landscape
Discounted early-bird rates end today, 19 May and strong interest is being shown in the diverse speaker programme. Conference delegates are also invited to register for a pre-conference workshop on:
- The interaction of the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) and the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NESPF) (hosted by Te Uru Rākau NZ Forest Service).
You can register today to catch the special early-bird rates using this link
HW Richardson green hydrogen gains oxygenThere's a lot riding on what will be the first green hydrogen production and refuelling station in the South Island. That’s as New Zealand’s largest private transport operator, HW Richardson (HWR), targets getting its pilot hydrogen station in Gore, Southland, on line by September.
Its aspirations, almost two years in the making, took a step forward with the arrival of a 1.1-megawatt (MW) hydrogen electrolyser and storage unit in Christchurch in mid-April.
The electrolyser – the first of two shipped over by South Yorkshire-based Clean Power Hydrogen (CPH2) – is now being kitted out with some cool cryogenic technology by Christchurch’s AFCryo, enabling separation and liquefaction.
The CPH2 system is ‘membrane free’, meaning it doesn’t use precious metals such as palladium or platinum to separate oxygen and hydrogen out of low-grade purified water. Its stainless steel ‘stacks’ also have an estimated lifespan of 25 years.
That’s in contrast to the proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers being used by New Plymouth-based Hiringa Energy’s four North Island sites – which it expects to have operational by year-end. It is looking for a further 24 across the country by 2026.
And while HWR is self-financing its transition, with an initial $15 million for its two initial electrolysers, Hiringa’s plan for a refuelling network has received a $16m boost from Crown Infrastructure Partners, via the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Its four-turbine windfarm and electrolyser in Taranaki – currently embroiled in a legal challenge by Greenpeace because it allows the hydrogen to be used to make urea at the neighbouring Ballance Agri-Nutrients fertiliser plant in Kapuni – will receive a further $19m from regional economic development unit Kānoa.
But once AFCryo, a subsidiary of Fabrum Solutions, is done upgrading the CPH2 box, the 40-foot unit will head to an Allied fuel station at Gore. That's just up the road from HWR’s Invercargill headquarters where it manages a fleet of 1,300 heavy trucks across the 50 businesses it runs – about 15% of the country’s heavy trucks.
The Allied fuel network extends to about 110 fuel stops and service stations, delivering about 500 million litres of fuel a year. HWR's Australian fuel interests, under bulk-fuel distributor Petrogas and Pacific Petroleum, deliver about the same again.
As well as the capital costs of the sites, it's spending about $150,000 a pop to convert an initial 10 trucks to the dual-fuel system. That's on top of the $350,000 to $400,000 cost for a new truck, which compares with a $1.2 million capital outlay for a pure hydrogen fuel cell truck.
Kim Hill, the commercial manager of HWR’s transport innovation and fleet management division MyTransport, said depending on how fast the company can get the refuelling sites set up, it’s aiming to get another 180 dual-system trucks on the road next year.
But, ultimately, the success of hydrogen as a part of New Zealand’s lower emissions transport future relies on making the new fuel option commercially viable. That’s a tough ask when the end-price of hydrogen is still a relative unknown, dependent on the negotiated price of electricity with local Southland electricity retailers.
Source: Business Desk
May 2023 NZ log market updateOpinion Piece, Marcus Musson, Director, Forest360
As we bid farewell to the NZ summer, we also wave goodbye to what we thought earlier in the year would be a reasonable period of solid log pricing from our export markets. May has seen export A-Grade prices drop to the early $100’s/m3 from the mid 120’s in April and the mid $140’s in March. Although the April reduction was on the cards, May was completely out of the blue.
Our reasoning for the initial expectation of reasonable returns for this period, were based on the low level of inventory in the Chinese market, compared to this point in time in previous years, which, would usually point towards upward price pressure. However, May numbers have resulted in a Meka Whaitiri style departure from expectation and caught us all on the proverbial Hipkins backfoot.
While we used to be able to operate at these lower price points a few years ago, continued inflation pressure has effectively added around 15% to the cost of production; resulting in forests located a distance from ports currently at, or below, break-even.
The inflation debate is interesting when looked at in context of our largest export market – China. If you take the NZ inflation rate of 7.3% for 2022 and the forecast rate in the mid 6% range for 2023, we have a total increase of around 13.5% over the past 18 months. This is compared to China at 0.9% for 2022 and a forecast of 0.98% for 2023. Quick math shows a gap of around 12% between our production costs and the theoretical increase in revenue from our largest trading partner. This would be a different story if NZ radiata was purchased by China and manufactured into products that are sold to other countries with similarly high inflation. However, as the majority of NZ radiata is used in domestic Chinese construction, the ability to on-sell products at higher prices are very limited.
Although inflation figures do not include house price stats, there is a reasonable correlation between inflation and house prices. That said, average new house prices in China dropped 0.8% year on year to March 2023 across seventy of the major cities, the 11th straight month of decreases. That makes the gap between our production costs and the markets’ ability to pay increased prices for commodities even greater. The average house price reduction has been a concern for Beijing for a while and various stimulus packages have been implemented by the Chinese government in an effort to avert the decline, but to date has made little effect, if any.
What is apparent, is that Chinese log demand has reduced significantly from 2021 levels. We are looking at a demand profile similar to 2022, down 25% on 2021 and remembering 2022 demand was hampered by full covid lock down mode in China. If we look at the graph, it is not hard to see what pricing is going to look like based on history. This is simple supply and demand 101 with the market reaction to increased supply or decreased demand being reduced prices. So, in the face of subdued demand, the solution is to reduce supply.
This supply reduction has been happening slowly with the aftereffects of the Cyclones and continued wet weather in many areas affecting production levels. Chinese buyers seem to have an expectation that the 3 million tonnes of wind damaged forest in the Taupo region will hit the market quickly and some of the downward price pressure is likely due to this sentiment. However, the reality is that only a portion of this volume will be salvaged before decay sets in, and the lack of trucking capacity is keeping the brakes on supply levels from affected forests.
Long term, there is a consistent view that Chinese demand will not be what it was and therefore NZ supply needs to reduce, permanently. Short term, the current price structure will see many harvest operations stop and as a result harvest contractors will be out of work. Continued cost pressures, covid lockdowns, cyclones and multiple market corrections have put considerable strain on the equity of many of these harvesting businesses and a quick scan of logging gear on Trade Me shows how many are exiting the system.
SnapSTAT - NZ Carbon marketsCarbon markets are currently awaiting the results of the Government review of the Emissions Trading Scheme. The uncertainty may have been a factor in why no units were sold at the Government’s March quarterly auction of NZUs. The price of units has generally been trending down since December. See page 15 of the ANZ Research Report (link provided) for further commentary.
Source: ANZ Research AgriFocus Report April 2023
Celebrating training & business successIt was a well-timed event for the Southern North Island Wood Council to hold their Forestry Awards on the night of 12 May 2023 in Palmerston North. 410 members of the forestry community came together to finally find something to celebrate and have a good catch up over a buffet dinner, drinks and entertainment that are provided as part of this event.
The event celebrated the 13 trophies that were awarded from a record pool of 74 nominees. The new social media campaign titled, “Nominate a Mate” that was released over Instagram and Facebook in the weeks leading up to the event resulted in more nominations than ever from the contractor members nominating each other, and many new faces were drawn into the awards.
Erica Kinder, Wood Council CEO and event coordinator commented that this year the focus of the evening was really on the nominees with slideshows playing during the evening showing every nominee and spot prizes and the $500 UDC Lucky prize draw handed out to nominees during the evening. “We really needed a night to get together, celebrate ourselves for once and send our 410 attendees back out there as advocates for the sector, with some good stories to tell. I think as a Wood Council, we pulled together an amazing event.”
Some standout winners on the night were Mangoihe Logging from the Manawatu who came away with three winners from their crew. Max Gibson for Emerging Talent of the Year, Ben Hale for Harvesting Excellence, and a whole crew award for Outstanding Health and Safety Management.
McCarthy Transport took home two trophies on the night with Dave Cummings winning for Distribution Excellence, and the standing ovation for Mark McCarthy (photo) for Contribution to the Forest Sector. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Mark was helped to the stage by his two sons, Matt and Mike McCarthy.
New categories this year were crowd favourites with Hariata Wipaki from Moutere Logging in the Manawatu winning Woman in Forestry Award of Excellence, and Oxnam Family winning the Forestry Family of the Year.
Other winners on the night were Fred Dickson from Kiwilumber winning Wood Processing Excellence, Silviculture Excellence was Wairarapa based D & T Silviculture, Josh Blazek from Farman Turkington Forestry won Outstanding Environmental Management. Contractor of the Year was Manawatu-based Foxpine Logging who took home the chainsaw from Stihl Shop Masterton along with sponsored prize packs and $100 vouchers for Hunting and Fishing.
A new award this year sponsored by Safetree was Health and Safety Champion. This was awarded to Nik Bradnock from Clearwood Contracting in the Wairarapa for his sensitive harvesting of an archaeological Iwi site.
Source: Southern North Island Wood Council
FCNSW graduate foresters growing their skillsGraduate foresters are growing their industry skills and experience through Forestry Corporation of NSW's graduate program. Four graduate foresters were recruited in the 2022 graduate program, including Lydia Kearns, who joined the Wauchope office late last year.
Originally from the Blue Mountains, Lydia saw the combined opportunity of joining the forestry industry, working outdoors and moving to the mid-north coast. "In my last year of studying at the University of Sydney I was figuring out my next steps, when I saw the graduate program advertised," Ms Kearns said.
"The more I Iooked into it, the more it lined up with my background and what I wanted to do. My degree was in environmental science, ecology and evolutionary biology, so very interested in the native forestry industry.
"I have spent a lot of time camping and four-wheel driving in the bush, so was already familiar with State forests and what they can offer. Being able to work in the bush is definitely a win. It's the best job in the world!"
After Lydia accepted the offer to join the graduate program, she had the opportunity to work from any Forestry Corporation office in the state. "Wauchope was my preference, being close enough for family to visit," she said. "Everyone has been incredibly nice and welcoming — the office and work is very diverse and really a good environment. People have been keen to help me learn and get into the business more."
On starting, Lydia spent a week at fire camp with other new recruits to learn the basic skills of firefighting. She is currently working in harvest planning, mapping and due diligence. The graduate program has also seen her working two-week blocks in other areas such as roading, harvesting and tree marking to better understand the different roles in the organisation and how they all work together.
"The most exciting part of my week is spending time in the forests and learning bush skills such as advanced driving and species identification," she said. "My friends and family hear all about it when we are out in the bush — I'm keen to share my newly-acquired knowledge!"
Photo: Lydia working in the forest
Future Foresters leadership positions openFuture Foresters (NZ) have opened up their annual applications for Leadership Team positions! There are two Executive Committee positions open (2-year term) as well as their annual call for Regional Leaders throughout the country (1 year term with ability to reapply).
Future Foresters, as a special interest group under the NZIF, is a group of young foresters who aim to create a forestry community. We do this by connecting young foresters throughout the country, promoting our sector’s benefits and career opportunities, providing a network and voice for young/new foresters, providing professional development opportunities, and linking new and experienced foresters.
The role of Regional Leader involves growing and maintaining a regional network, organising networking and careers events, alongside opportunities to be involved in industry groups by representing Future Foresters, and helping with other projects.
The FF Exec position involves the overall running of FF (including managing finances and funding), leading FF projects, coordinating nationwide events/themes, and engaging with industry, and much, much more!
To be clear, these roles are voluntary. The time commitment involves a monthly, 1hr online team meeting, twice yearly Saturday planning meetings & team building, and time spent on event planning, project involvement, etc.
If you’re a passionate and motivated young forester and interested in being part of forestry’s future then please fill out an application form and send it to email@example.com. Please note that you are able to apply for Regional Leader and/or Executive Committee in the same application form.
Please share amongst your own companies and networks as this is an awesome opportunity for our young foresters all around Aotearoa!
If you’ve got any questions, email us ( firstname.lastname@example.org) or message us on Facebook or Instagram.
Applications close 31st May 2023 and positions will be filled by 30th June for a 1st July start for the new FF Leadership Team.
Murray Region Forestry Hub appoints new managerThe Murray Region Forestry Hub (MRFH) has appointed Carlie Porteous as its new Hub Manager. Chair of MRFH and Softwoods Working Group, Peter Crowe OAM, said Ms Porteous brings more than 12 years of experience in the forest and wood products industry to her new role.
“Carlie has been involved in most aspects of the value chain and brings a wealth of experience to her new position,” he said. “Her introduction to the timber industry was through Visy's fibre supply certification, where she developed and successfully implemented Visy's full supply chain Forest Stewardship Council and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme, which is still the largest certificate in the Australasia region.
“She has gone on to represent the needs of forest contracting businesses as General Manager of the Australian Forest Contractors Association, growing the business profile, engagement, and numbers considerably since her commencement. “Carlie also has nearly 10 years of experience in the waste transport industry in multiple roles including contract management, operations, and project implementation.
“She continues to prove her investment to the industry as a voluntary member of the Board for FSC Australia and New Zealand as well as a Trustee for the Gottstein Trust.” Mr Crowe said Ms Porteous would commence in the new role in July and, together with her family, will move from Queensland to Albury later in the year.
Eleven regional forestry hubs were created under the National Forest Industries Plan to identify the constraints limiting forestry and timber industry growth. The MRFH takes in about 3.5 million hectares east of the Hume Freeway, west of the Great Dividing Range, south of Gundagai, and includes plantations in north-east Victoria down to Lake Eildon.
Key forestry towns in the NSW part of the hub are Tumut, Batlow, Tumbarumba, Gundagai and Adelong, while in Victoria the hub centres around Corryong, Tallangatta, Myrtleford and Wangaratta. This area contains around 170,000 hectares of softwood plantations (public and private). The Murray Region is home to one of the largest softwood-plantation forestry industries in Australia.
Mr Crowe thanked the outgoing executive officer, Phil Clements, for his dedicated and valuable input into establishing the MRFH. “Phil has a vast knowledge of the timber industry in the region, and he will continue in a non-executive role to contribute to the development of the MRFH,” he said.
Source: Murray Region Forestry Hub
Return of the GEDI• Since 2018, the GEDI mission has been firing lasers from the International Space Station to measure aboveground biomass on Earth.
• The information gleaned from it has been crucial for scientists to understand how deforestation contributes to worsening climate change.
• The mission was supposed to be decommissioned earlier this year, with the lasers fated to be jettisoned from the ISS and burned up in the atmosphere.
• However, NASA made a last-minute decision to extend the mission after a push from the scientists involved in it: the GEDI equipment will be put into storage for 18 months, then reinstated to resume operations for as long as the ISS continues to run.
It was down to the wire for the GEDI mission, but it now seems like the force may have prevailed.
In a last-minute decision, NASA has decided to extend the GEDI mission (short for Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, and pronounced “Jedi” like in the Star Wars films), which was fated to be jettisoned from the International Space Station, where it has been attached for the past four years, to make way for another, unrelated, mission. But a campaign driven by the scientists involved in the project helped the mission — the first to map Earth’s forests in 3D — get a second life.
NASA now says the mission will take a hiatus for 18 months. The array of lasers that make up the GEDI equipment will be moved into storage on board the ISS, where space for research equipment is at a premium, to make way for a U.S. Department of Defence payload.
“The proposed solution calls for temporarily moving GEDI to an alternate location, where it will remain offline for about 18 months while a DOD technology payload completes its mission,” NASA said in a statement issued March 17. “In 2024, GEDI will return to its original location and resume operations on the station.” The mission is now expected to “continue through the life of the space station,” which is set to be retired in 2031.
Data from the GEDI mission, operating since 2018, has been critical for scientists to understand how deforestation is exacerbating climate change.
“This mission is particularly valuable, especially at the point where we are in now, in terms of climate negotiations and the recognition of mitigation efforts,” Scott Goetz, deputy principal investigator at the GEDI mission and a professor at Northern Arizona University, told Mongabay in a video interview. “It means a lot to me and my group, but it means a lot more for the broader scientific community as well.”
The GEDI mission uses spaceborne laser altimeters to measure the aboveground biomass on Earth. Scientists calculate the dimensions of trees based on the time it takes for the light emitted from the ISS to hit the tree and reflect back. Since the light also reflects off leaves and branches, the GEDI mission has also helped scientists get a fuller understanding of what a tree looks like, including details about girth, weight and canopy size.
Modelling forests in 3D is imperative to estimate the amount of carbon stored in them. About half of a tree’s dry weight comprises carbon, which is released into the atmosphere when it’s cut down or is burned up in a fire. When scientists and researchers can calculate the amount of carbon stored in an area of forest, it gives them a clear picture of how the carbon is distributed and how much is released due to deforestation.
Since GEDI data became publicly available in 2020, researchers and governments have been using it for a variety of applications.
Growth Scholarship program aimed at growing careersAdam Faircloth (photo) a forest scientist who won the inaugural AU$10 000 Kennedy's Timbers Award has encouraged other early to mid-career forest and timber industry workers to apply to Timber Queensland’s Growth Scholarship program.
Adam has recently returned from his learning experience, a study tour across Australia and New Zealand to gain insights into perceived challenges, R&D opportunities, and current achievements in the field of vibroacoustic assessment.
"Getting out there and meeting people was very, very helpful. Especially early in my career," said Adam Faircloth. During a recent presentation outlining the learnings of his study tour Adam said his learning experience has already delivered positive impacts for his career development.
“I made over 40 new industry contacts during my study tour, developed a lot of knowledge about the industry and have lots of excitement for the future,” Adam said. “I’ve recently started a new position as Principal Technician of the Forest Product Innovation team at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and have started the process to enroll in a PhD.”
Timber Queensland’s Strategic Relations Manager Clarissa Brandt said applications for the 2023 – 2024 scholarship program are now open. “The idea of applying for a scholarship may seem overwhelming. However, it is a simple and fair process that is equitable for factory workers and foresters alike, in fact for anyone involved in the industry supply chain,” said Clarissa.
“The online application form includes questions regarding industry commitment, past education, training and employment and asks applicants to provide a description of their proposed learning project and how it will develop their career in the forest and timber industry,” she said.
2023 - 2024 Growth Scholarship applications opened on 28 March and close on 30 June. The awards on offer are the Kennedy's Timber Award - AU$10 000, HQPlantations Award - AU$5000, AKD Award - AU$5000 and the DTM Timber Award - AU$2500.
Learn more about the Growth Scholarships here and see Adam talking about his experience winning a Growth Scholarship Award here.
Source: Timber Queensland
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... training dolphins
An elderly man just nudges the rear end of an expensive sports car. Enraged, the driver hops out of his car and confronts the old man.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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