Evolving notes, images and sounds by Luis Apiolaza

Author: Luis (Page 6 of 67)

We all stopped expanding our forest estate

A few days ago I was comparing afforestation figures—planting in area that didn’t have trees before—across New Zealand, Chile and Australia. There was a bit of discussion in the comments but, of course, that was only a small part of painting a picture of the plantation forestry sector in each country.

This time, I am plotting the total planted forest estate (excluding native forests) in each country. All three Southern Hemisphere countries have stopped expanding their total estate, with only a few years difference. New Zealand reached its peak area in 2003 (1.82 million ha), Australia in 2009 (2.02 million ha) and Chile in 2013 (2.45 million ha).

Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina that “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. All three forest sectors have different reasons to explain or justify the area contraction, although there is at least one commonality: uncertainty.

For example, the ETS mess in the early 2000s in NZ resulted in large areas of young plantations converted to dairy use in the Canterbury region. My previous post showed an uptick on newly planted land in New Zealand (some of it converted from meat production to forestry); still it is not big enough to compensate for the loss of planted land in previous years. Chile has experienced a decade-long megadrought, large forest fires in the 2016-17 season (a drop of area), together with political complexity from 2019 onwards.

All three countries are supposed to increase CO2 sequestration as part of their commitments against climate change. It is looking like a hard call to achieve this with our current political settings.

Area total de plantaciones forestales en Australia, Chile y Nueva Zelanda.

New plantations in AU, NZ and CL

Looking at new forest plantations areas in Chile (data from INFOR), Australia (ABARES) and New Zealand (MPI) since 1994, as the Chilean dataset starts then.

Interesting to see how the expansion of the forest estate collapsed in all three Southern Hemisphere countries at the start of the 2010s. Lately, New Zealand has seen an increase mostly due to market for Carbon Sequestration.

Why did I choose those three countries? I have worked in all of them and all three use radiata pine (although new plantings may involve Eucalyptus as well).

New planted areas (in hectares) of forest species in Australia, Chile and New Zealand.

Collaborative competition

I was reading Peter Amer’s “Pre-competitive collaboration” in which he discusses the interaction between private and public sectors in research and innovation, as someone coming from the private sector. Nice commentary.

I work for a public university, so I come from a slightly different position.

In my quantitative genetics work, most of the methodologies are publicly available. Most software is also freely available (databases, R, Python) or it is affordable (asreml-R).

Most breeding programmes can access all those “components”. What often varies between programmes, setting aside biological differences, is the quality of the execution: how do we put together the components? This also relates to the ability of the people involved in the programme and their “vision”.

From that point of view, collaboration between competing actors—contributing to a common pool of knowledge and tools—helps everyone to deliver more effective programmes.

In my mind, there is room for a mix of breeding programmes and service providers. This mix will vary with location and time. In some places/countries, private providers will be the best choice, while in others public programmes or mixed partnerships could be best.

What Would Akaike Do?

This AIC looks way more fun than the other AIC for (soft toy) model selection.

Photo: AIC Fun Box in Terminal Los Héroes, Santiago, Chile.
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