The Browning of the Three Brothers Mountains

Posted: November 5, 2013 in Media
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Residents of the Camden Haven on the Mid North Coast of NSW are noticing a distinct change in their visible iconic mountain landscapes.

From the towns of Laurieton, Johns River and nearby villages (anywhere with views of the three brothers mountains) people are talking about the browning and die back of trees.

Noticeable die back and flowering of Eucalypts on the south west face of Middle Brother Mountain near Johns River October 2013

Noticeable die back and flowering of Eucalypts on the south west face of Middle Brother Mountain near Johns River October 2013

Several residents have stated they have not seen this before during a period of around thirty years living in the Camden Haven area. One report from a farmer near Johns River recalled something like this on Middle Brother Mountain over 30 years ago.

The change of colour in foliage at various locations on North Brother, Middle Brother and South Brother mountains is what you would expect from a fall landscape in the Northern Hemisphere.

Click here for More images of the current situation

While some of this change can be expected from the prolific flowering of Eucalyptus trees this year, closer inspection reveals that many trees are dying or suffering extreme browning and loss of foliage. Prolific flowering of plants in a natural environment is often the result of stress. In this case it is most likely due to low rainfall this year in winter and spring. Plants will flower profusely to release seed to ensure survival of the species. This can also be noticed in species such as banksias when seed is released from capsules following a bushfire.

An open Banksia seed pod seen in the days following the Crowdy Bay bushfire of October 2013

An open Banksia seed pod seen in the days following the Crowdy Bay bushfire of October 2013

Closer inspection on the road to the top of North Brother Mountain saw extremely dry conditions. Many species were suffering and most obvious the tree ferns, many of which were dead or dying. The stony surface was most noticeable in the parched landscape. It would be fair to say that the mountain has dried up. The area’s most affected are likely to be those on the shallowest stony soils where biodiversity is lost through lack of moisture, followed by erosion during periods of heavy rainfall expected in the late summer and autumn.

The browning landscape on the road to the top of North Brother Mountain. 5th November 2013

The browning landscape on the road to the top of North Brother Mountain. 5th November 2013

This visual change has become most noticeable during the last four weeks and has been reported to National Parks and Wildlife Service. Investigations take some time on scientific matters. For known problems an explanation may be available within a few days.

The most important questions here for science are:

  • Have there been any previous recorded events of this nature in this region?
  • Will these areas recover?
  • What will be the effects of heavy rainfall and erosion on the areas below?
  • Is this event a factor of shifting weather patterns due to climate change?

The areas to the south east known as Crowdy Bay and to the north at Maria River Road near Crescent head experienced unprecedented winter and spring bushfires in 2013. This must alert us to the warnings given by the latest IPCC report and 97% of the world’s leading climate change scientists.

The Maria River Road Fire captured some 40kms away from North Brother Mountain. 24th August 2013

The Maria River Road Fire captured some 40kms away from North Brother Mountain. 24th August 2013

For a local perspective on climate change I recommend readers to look at the NSW Climate Impact Profile by NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW. Section 5.3 for the North Coast Section beginning on page 65.

Link NSW Climate Impact Profile

I will continue to observe and follow the findings of any reports related to the above issue.

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Comments
  1. peter laing says:

    No doubt that there has been a dramatic change in the last few months.Each time I drive over Dunbogan bridge heading in to town ,the contrast in the last few months has been quite noticeable.Would be interesting to collate the rainfall and temperature figures for this year in comparison to other years.

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