Dean M. Chriss
Primeval Forest #1, Victoria, Australia
(Click image to enlarge)
A dense and lush cover of tree ferns growing along the banks of this river
gives the area a prehistoric feeling that is only amplified by the mosses
and towering mountain ash trees. I decided to create a series of photographs
that show some of these rapidly disappearing forests. This is the first
photograph in that series.
Tree-ferns are true ferns, not trees. They reproduce from
spores rather than seeds. All ferns have a rhizome from which the fronds
emerge. The only thing unique to tree ferns is that the rhizome is very long
and strong enough to support itself. They are also impressively large. The
long arching fronds can be 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length and in some areas
they reach a height of up to 20 meters (66 feet). They require coolness,
moisture, shade and shelter from wind, so they typically inhabit only shady
gullies and stream banks.
Most of the larger trees
here are eucalyptus regnans, known variously as mountain ash, swamp gum, or
stringy gum. They are a broad-leaved, evergreen, hardwood tree that can
reach heights of more than 114 meters (375 feet). Mountain ash trees are the
world's tallest flowering plant and the second tallest trees on earth, next
to North America's coast redwoods. In recent years climate change has caused
fires to become much more more intense and frequent. Fires together with
intensive logging have decimated forests like this one. Relative to historic
levels only about 1% remain.
The only good news here is that a landmark
supreme court judgment in November of 2022 found that the state-owned
logging agency, VicForests, had broken the law by failing to protect
endangered species. Accordingly, all logging of
Victoria's native forests will stop by the end of 2023. Since Australia's mountain
ash forests have the highest biomass carbon density of any forest on earth,
this court decision is beneficial for both our climate and the forests,
not to mention the biodiversity that these forests protect.