Forests for Industry or Forests for Life? Timber History in Western Australia.

Forestry is one of the oldest professions in Western Australia. Blessed with a bounteous supply of hardwood timber, the industry set the State on the road to prosperity. Now, in the twenty-first century, the environment is under pressure from declining rainfall and over-exploitation. Faced with a climate emergency and ecological collapse, the time has come to stop logging native forests. Western Australia is home to some of the most biodiverse biospheres in the world. The red continent has been stable for aeons, and in the south-west evolution has continued uninterrupted for 270… Read More

The Stewart Karri: Western Australia’s tallest tree

white tree in green forest

At 85 metres high, the Stewart Karri is Western Australia’s tallest known tree, and one of the twenty tallest in the world. Hidden away in a remote valley near Manjimup, it is now under threat from a water harvesting proposal. The Stewart Tree was first named and measured in the 1940s during a search for tall Karris to turn into fire lookout towers. Other giants, like the Gloucester and the Dave Evans trees, eventually had spikes driven in and platforms built on top. But the Stewart remained pristine, left to grow in… Read More

The Giant Tingles of Walpole

walpole tingle

The forest of the giant tingles is a jumble of shifting shadows and passing light. They stand tall, cloaked in undergrowth, huge boles and shallow roots grounding them into the ancient granite soils of southern Western Australia. Tingles grow only in a tiny area of forest around Walpole, a small town on an inlet to the southern ocean. The Walpole-Nornalup forests are thought to be relict descendants from ecosystems millions of years ago, when Australia was wetter with a more constant rainfall. The forests are unique: there are even recently discovered invertebrates… Read More

Margaret River: a Portrait in Trees

gleaming pale karri trees

Trees hold a very special role in the genus loci, or spirit of place. Margaret River lies in the far south-west of Australia, in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste region.  A limestone ridge runs along the coast, and fades away inland to a sand plain cloaked with forests and swamp. There are a diverse range of habitats and unique ecosystems, which combine to create one of the worlds rare biodiversity hotspots. The Leeuwin-Naturaliste region is Wadandi Noongar country. Before European colonisation, it was heavily timbered. Noongar people rarely or never felt the need to fell… Read More

Hamelin Bay: King Karri and the Tempest

king karri

Hamelin is a peaceful looking bay in the far south-west of Australia. For most of the year, its shores are sheltered from the swell by limestone reefs. Stingrays sweep the shallows feeding on scraps, people line-fish from the beach, and small children play in the wavelets. But the bay has a dramatic history. For a few short decades Hamelin was the harbour for the timber industry based at Karridale and Boranup. Many ships lie wrecked in the bay. The safety of the anchorage was deceptive, for the south-west coast lies in the… Read More

Tales From the Earth: the Palaeoclimates of Boranup

There’s no denying that climate change will have a massive impact on Margaret River. Over the past 50 000 years, locals have witnessed dramatic changes to landscape and ecology, and there are likely many more to come. Within the caves of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, Margaret River holds a record of climate change spanning over a million years. There is a fossil record that includes the arrival of the first Australians, the onset of the last ice-age, and the current warm period known as the Holocene. Scientists have studied the extinctions of megafauna;… Read More

The Darnell Oak, Margaret River

In the heart of a small town in Western Australia there grows an oak. Not a very big oak, just a young tree with a short history, but potentially a very long future. When Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England in 1953, Margaret River chose to plant a tree at Memorial Park in her honour. The task of planting the tree fell to Bill Darnell, then Chairman of the Road Board (the Shire). When the time came he realised that no-one had thought to supply the tree, so he raced home and… Read More

Wooditjup Jarrah Gallery

Documenting old and significant jarrah trees in the forests of Margaret River. Jarrah forest is one of the major ecological niches in the wet south-west corner of Australia. It is endemic to the area, growing nowhere else in the world.  Since the arrival of Europeans in 1829, vast areas of forest have been cleared for timber, agriculture or urban development. What is left is suffering from the effects of disease, changing groundwater systems, fragmentation by roads and infrastructure, and climate change. Jarrah is a hardwood timber, beautiful and durable. By the 1870s… Read More

Sculpture by Tree

SCULPTURE BY TREE Bleached and weathered; scored, lined and hollowed. A large marri, centuries old, collapsed across the swamp like the shin bone of a giant. Nourishment for myriads of small creatures and a feast for the mind that has the time to pause and wonder. The life history of a tree can be read in the skeleton it leaves behind. Wood shaped slow. Built of soil particles, transported by water and fuelled by the sun. The silhouette of the tree is shaped by light; by the shade of neighbours, and the… Read More

Boranup: a forest in profile

Boranup is a small outreach of Karri forest in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. In Wardandi Noongar, the name means “place of the male dingo.” The dingos are long gone, but the Karri trees delight thousands of tourists a year. They stop on the roadside to snap images of nature, unaware that the forest clothes a cultural landscape shaped by people for millennia. During the last Ice Age, Boranup nestled behind the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, overlooking a sandplain which stretched 40km out to the edge of the continental shelf. The first Australians, who walked… Read More