The War on Willows

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ghosta
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by ghosta » Mon Dec 13, 2010 9:31 am

[quote="Shirley Henderson". For the main, the stance against willows is merely due to the fact that they are not a native plant.[/quote]

Thanks for the reply Shirley. I am unable to find ANY document on the net that gives this reason as the major reason for willow removal. Would you be kind enough to post a link to some of them that do?

sceptic
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by sceptic » Mon Dec 13, 2010 9:42 am

The question was put, why eradicate willows? There are a number of reasons, some of which I'll outline. At the start I will say willows are great for riparian stabilisation however there are a number of other things to consider.

As we've seen with the CSIRO press release willows use a lot of water, more so than natives and this is an issue as we strive for better water efficiency.

Secondly, willows change the temperature regime of waterways, not so much in summer but in winter when the leaves have dropped the water underneath will be warmer during the day and colder at night, under native riparian vegetation the temperature is more constant and more suited to native aquatic animals.

The large pulse of leaves dropping into waterways in autumn leads to an increased biological oxygen demand, which can lead to lowered dissolved oxygen levels (add this to the potential loss of dissolved oxygen through warmer water and we can start to see this could have serious consequenses for water quality)

Willows break down quicker in water than do native plants, the analogy I heard is that they're the equivalent of McDonalds while the natives are a more balanced meal, this has consequences as to which invertebrates will live in there, generally there's more invertebrate variety in streams bordered by native plants than by willows.

As we've seen from the Baramul study there is no need to plant willows and the riparian areas will recover quicker, both geomorphically and ecologically using natives.
The truth is out there.

ghosta
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by ghosta » Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:15 pm

Sceptic, I recall back in the 70s and 80s an elderly neighbour of my parents, who in his advanced years, began the task of replanting along watercourses and denuded areas on his family farm. Everyone else seem to be planting the quick growing hybrid willows, while he exclusively grew natives. I helped him with progogation of blackwoods and wattles, and every time I returned to the area I took the obligatory tour of his plantings. What a difference he made.

He often said those planting willows would regret it and at the time I didnt realise why. Although he is now deceased, I now realise just how wise he was.

Whats the problem with hybrid willows, you ask? Anyone got an answer? This is the key to why willows are being removed. Surely some of you know the answer!

Shirley Henderson
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by Shirley Henderson » Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:21 pm

SKEPTIC: The question was put, why eradicate willows? There are a number of reasons, some of which I'll outline. At the start I will say willows are great for riparian stabilisation however there are a number of other things to consider. SKEPTIC: As we've seen with the CSIRO press release willows use a lot of water, more so than natives and this is an issue as we strive for better water efficiency.
That’s debatable as PA states in his book that the volume of water consumed by willows should be regarded with suspicion. He states that not enough testing has been done. Peter says that willows are thirsty for only a few months of the year. For the rest of the year they don’t consume much water at all and none in the 5 or 6 months they’re without leaves. Averaged over a full year, he has no doubt that willow’s consumption of water is fairly modest - certainly much less than the extra water that is lost by evaporation once willows are removed.

SKEPTIC: Secondly, willows change the temperature regime of waterways, not so much in summer but in winter when the leaves have dropped the water underneath will be warmer during the day and colder at night, under native riparian vegetation the temperature is more constant and more suited to native aquatic animals.
I pose the question here that ‘Wouldn’t the water temperature be fairly extreme with no cover at all.’
“The water in a sand-bed creek without shade can get extremely hot in summer.” (PA)

It is my opinion that a healthy wetland would have a diversity of plants that also provide shelter and water temperature control. Willows do not stand alone in NSF techniques although they may be a primary coloniser.

Also as far as water temperatures being more suited to native aquatic animals that is a very bold statement considering the lack of knowledge on the subject. A healthy water way contains so much diversity that is ever-changing and continually evolving. This requires ongoing monitoring with natives, willows and a mixes of different species including the water biota introduced and native.

Lastly on the subject of water temperature it would not make much difference if the water has evaporated completely through lack of cover, evapo-transpiration and the small water cycle. There are natural processes in Australian waterways for water to flow and then dry out so aquatic native species should be quite adaptable to water temperature changes. In fact it amazes me that after months or even years of dryness after a rain event species return as if out of nowhere.

SKEPTIC: The large pulse of leaves dropping into waterways in autumn leads to an increased biological oxygen demand, which can lead to lowered dissolved oxygen levels (add this to the potential loss of dissolved oxygen through warmer water and we can start to see this could have serious consequences for water quality)

Our water ways are inundated with vegetation all the time and it is not from leaves dropping off willows it’s usually from our unpredictable climate, storms, loose bush land, Eucalyptus leaves, branches and the like. Anyone who is concerned about the build up of fire fuel in the bush knows what is washed and blown into the waterways.

Personally I work in a reserve that has no willows and the dissolved oxygen levels that we test fortnightly are up and down all the time, especially after rain. The life in the water that we also examine on a regular basis is depleted and then returns. It varies with weather, rain, temperature and season.

SKEPTIC: Willows break down quicker in water than do native plants, the analogy I heard is that they're the equivalent of McDonalds while the natives are a more balanced meal, this has consequences as to which invertebrates will live in there, generally there's more invertebrate variety in streams bordered by native plants than by willows.

It would be good if you would quote your sources so that we can read this information too and have the opportunity to review it ourselves.

SKEPTIC: As we've seen from the Baramul study there is no need to plant willows and the riparian areas will recover quicker, both geomorphically and ecologically using natives.

Consider flat land, fairly dry and devoid of plant life struggling to support life with degraded soil and no water to speak of. What is the harm in trying out a new technique with surprising possibilities? If that landscape can be changed into a functioning healthy ecosystem with vegetation and water flowing, what’s the harm in trying?

Now consider the alternative, remove willows or don’t plant them, buy tube stock, long stems, plant native vegetation, monitor, maintain, fertilise as required and wait many years with a poor survival rate and ongoing replants.
Costs of labour, failures, expenses and time. Now consider NSF as an alternative.

I have used a few excerpts from “Back from the Brink” and recommend reading chapter 17.

Also in “Water plants of Australia” by Sainty there is also and interesting section on Willows. Geoff Sainty has specialised in wetland plants for over 40 years.
His opening statement on Willow Management is
“One of the biggest problems with willows in the river systems is the remedy that is often suggested. All too often the first suggestions are simply just kill all willows. Unfortunately, life is rarely that simple, and willows are a good example of that. It is usually not logical to start by controlling species. The first step is to identify the problem, identify if the species cause or exacerbate any of the problems……..

We have altered much of the habitat around us such that the original native species no longer have their competitive advantages. “New weedy species in many cases prove to be much better adapted to this modified landscape. If we take an irrational dislike to some of these species and attempt to eradicate them then we open the possibility of one or both of:
(i) Causing more or different problems; and
(ii) Replacing them with species resistant to the control methods being used.

(Sainty - Water Plants in Australia)

I agree with some but not all of what is written in this book but that is freedom of speech and freedom to learn.
One statement made in this book says that Willows do not provide suitable habitat for native animals or birds that rely on tree hollows. Well many trees don’t do that and hollows take many years to form. I always considered that problem an easy one to solve.

I won’t go on but think there is much room for debate and open mindedness when it comes to willows and introduced plants. So I will end my long post by saying there is room in this country for different views and trying different ways can sometimes bring unexpected and surprising results. If you have any more questions on the subject I would suggest you do your own research from here. I hope you find the answers you are looking for. Bye.

Ian James
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by Ian James » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:44 am

This was a great read and a fantastic and necessary debate.

Thanks to Ghosta and Sceptic for sharing your opinions and reasoning’s, it gives us an insight into the minds of the people who we must battle and overcome.

Obviously here in Western Australia it is dry and I have no first hand experiences with the type and scope of the flooding currently ravaging the Eastern States.

I want to contribute to this debate and I would like to do this by posing a question to our two vocal and learned negatives.

You say quite clearly that the war on willows has nothing to do with the fact that these trees are not indigenous to Australia.
[quote="Shirley Henderson". For the main, the stance against willows is merely due to the fact that they are not a native plant.
Thanks for the reply Shirley. I am unable to find ANY document on the net that gives this reason as the major reason for willow removal. Would you be kind enough to post a link to some of them that do?
How then would your position change then if just for the sake of argument we put a mirror in front of you and ask you to seriously consider your approach and opinion to this tree if it had been as common and Australian as say, the native Coolabah?

What if?

Can you honestly say your zeal and hatred for this tree would not be affected at all if it was our good old much loved native Coolabah (Willow) that was being hounded and burned on the cross and not some immigrant, heathen, root ridden weed.

How would you treat this tree then, if it were native?

Can you answer this without a hint of self doubt?

ghosta
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by ghosta » Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:38 am

Ian James wrote:You say quite clearly that the war on willows has nothing to do with the fact that these trees are not indigenous to Australia.
Who said that?

Ill answer your question though. Whether or not a nuisance plant is a native has no relevence. Bracken fern and wattle are examples of native plants that may need to be controlled in pasture situations.

Just a general comment to those who believe willows should be allowed to spread unrestrained. Why not actually find out why people want some species of willows removed? If you knew why, then perhaps your opinion may change, or if that doesnt happen, at least you will know what arguments you need to counter. Countering arguments that are simply made up or only countering one of the many reasons wont win you a debate.

I note that noone has yet been able to identify the problem with hybrid willows. That in itself shows how little reading or observation has been done.

Jodi James
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by Jodi James » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:48 am

That is disgraceful, what a mess, here we are talking about greenhouse emissions, carbon credits, and they are removing beautiful weeping willow trees which provide shade, stop our rivers from erosion and also feeds our ecosystem. The problem is the people that order the destruction of the willows sit on their butts all day in their offices and don't even consider the long term consequences of their actions. Beauracratic bullshit! We planted 80000 trees last year and I asked men of the trees if we could plant some willows, there answer was no as it is a declared noxious weed here in WA. Can you believe it? at least they grow big and strong. Not like the ugly gum trees that look all spindly and ragged.
I am originally from New Zealand, Our government would never dream of ripping out willows. As a child growing up, willows were all you would see down the rivers. The root systems would hold up the banks and spread across the river and cause mini dams which held the water from running away. At least things grew under them, look at a forest full of gums trees, the leaves kill all the undergrowth. Wake up peoples! You are destroying some of the best beauty alongside our rivers. How about thinking of them as a carbon credit! Maybe CALM should have a look at the people removing these trees and fine them for doing it like they fine the farmers. Wake up Australia, protect our beautiful country instead of destroying it. Willows have a purpose! A very good one!
Open mindedness opens wisdom

duane
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by duane » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:54 am

Sorry Jodi.....bad news for you. Our Kiwi cousins have also declared war on willows....but more on that later.

Firtsly, Ghost enquired when did willows become a problem??

The answer to that dubious qustion was 1999 when the AG introduced Weeds of National Significance (WONS) legislation.
In 1998, Australian governments endorsed a framework to identify which weed species could be considered WONS within an agricultural, forestry and environmental context.

States and territories nominated 71 weed species to be assessed and ranked under this framework. Four major criteria were used in determining WONS:

1.the invasiveness of a weed species
2.a weed's impacts
3.the potential for spread of a weed
4.socio-economic and environmental values.
Twenty WONS were identified through this process (there are currently 21 on the WONS list). The Australian Government and the state and territory governments then endorsed the final list in 1999. Willows were listed..... All Willows except Weeping Willow, Pussy Willow and Sterile Pussy Willow

Taken from http://www.weeds.gov.au/weeds/lists/wons.html

duane
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by duane » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:09 am

This is the official AG website on WONS.
http://www.weeds.gov.au/cgi-bin/weeddet ... n_id=68497

This is a quote from the website:
Human activities and introduced animals, such as rabbits, cattle, horses, goats and pigs, can create good conditions for weed growth and contribute to weed spread. Weeds can contribute to soil disturbance, loss of native plant cover, and changed burning patterns. They also thrive where fertilizers and other wastes are washed into bushland, leaving extra nutrients in the soil.
Some of the reasons given for declaring a plant a weed is listed also on the website:
Weeds typically produce large numbers of seeds, assisting their spread and are often excellent at surviving and reproducing in disturbed environments. A weed can be an exotic species or a native species that colonises and persists in an ecosystem in which it did not previously exist.
Well Hello!!

The AG lists all of the criteria for an invasion by plants....exotic animals, clearing, man made causes. We cause all the problems, the plants we call 'weeds' are designed by Nature to fix these very problems.

As I have stated elsewhere (Google it), since settlement in 1788 we have removed 95% of our native vegetation, inc 99.75% of the original rainforest from the east coast, we have removed 94% of our functioning wetland systems and degraded 400 m Ha of agricultural land. As well, we have incised and eroded more than 50,000km of our streams, creeks and rivers in SE Australia (Rutherford).

If our landscape was an animal, it would now be seriously ill. In fact, it is seriously ill !!!

Nature though has provided plants with natural mechanisms to heal the hurt.

Most of the 'healing' or restorative plants (that we call 'weeds') have the following characteristics:
*they seed prolifically
* they spread quickly
* they multiply quickly
* they respond quickly to degraded situations such as fire, flood and clearing.

Why? Because they are trying to stabilise the system quickly. To secure the system from further degradation. They are mostly the primary colonisers. Whilst we view them negatively, as weeds, we are not looking at their natural function.

These plants are often simply sutures designed to stop 'the patient bleeding to death'.

Many of these plants are poisonous to animals or have protective thorns. It they were edible by animals, then they could not perform the role Nature intended for them, they would be eaten out before they have completed their role. When their role to secure ad stabilize the 'sick patient' is over, these plants themselves die, adding carbon and OM to the next cycle of plants in a more stable community.

That is until the sysyem once again suffers from overgrazing, fire, flood or drought and the enforced negative, activities inflicted on our landscape.

The message is fairly commonsensical. If we disturb or upset the natural order (balance) of things, Nature will have a mechaism to restore it to balance. Humans need to learn this very important natural function and message.

ghosta
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by ghosta » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:21 am

Jodi...Weeping Willows are not on the weed species list, and all willow advice Ive seen excludes this species. If "they" are removing weeping willows then we can only guess at their motives.

Duane, you havent answered my question. You have told us when certain willows were decared a WONS, but you havent explained what changed to make certain willows a problem.
Clue...weeping willows are excluded. Whats different about them? Im sure you know. Perhaps you dont want to post it here because its a bit too difficult to put up any argument that will convince readers the WONS decision was not justified!

Julian
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by Julian » Tue Dec 14, 2010 11:35 am

I found this:

"Weeping willows are one of two species not listed as Weeds of National Significance
Weeping Willows and two hybrid species of Pussy Willow (S. x calodendron and S. reichardtii) are not listed as Weeds of National Significance as they don’t readily reproduce (CRC Weed Management 2003). Only female Weeping Willows were introduced into Australia. However it has been discovered that they are now crossing with males of some problem species because flowering times are aligning as willows adapt to local conditions."
On this Web site: http://www.molonglocatchment.com.au/Pro ... gement.htm

duane
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by duane » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:42 pm

Ghosta in reply to your query
you havent explained what changed to make certain willows a problem.
Try this:
It is invasive.
It spreads too quickly
It's residue fails to break down.
Its a monoculture.
It's killing ALL of our catchments.
It prevents biodiversity from growing beneath it.
It takes more water out of our waterway systems than native plants
And the landscape condition has deteriorated SO much that the area and the job willows have to cover has increasingly got bigger.

All reasons for putting it on the WONS list.

duane
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by duane » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:46 pm

"Change is a natural process of evolution"....Charles Darwin. ........ The Origin of Species

BTW Ghosta I am happy to push.....it what's I am pushing uphill that is my real worry.

duane
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by duane » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:52 pm

I refer readers of this thread to an earlier thread where there are a lot more comments on this hot debate.

viewtopic.php?f=12&t=630

Shirley Henderson
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Re: The War on Willows

Post by Shirley Henderson » Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:45 am

Image

Here is a picture of Pittosporum undulatum holding the bank together. I know for a fact that bush regenerators recently went through this area removing all the Privet from the banks. Fortunately they had good sense to leave this Pittosporum possibly because it is a native; although considered a pest by many.
I am going to keep observing this area. They also left behind a young willow. I wonder if they did that on purpose or just didn't realise what it was?
Last edited by Shirley Henderson on Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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