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Firewood and mining timber in the Eastern Goldfields

Williamson, Alan (1983) Firewood and mining timber in the Eastern Goldfields. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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An estimated 30 million tonnes of mining timber and fuelwood was removed from 4 million hectares of woodland of the Eastern Goldfields for the goldmining industry between 1890 and 1960. This thesis describes a pilot project to study the effect on the vegetation of the removal of so much timber. There is no recorded work that describes the effect of this large-scale removal of trees on the vegetation of the Eastern Goldfields. Nowhere else in the world in areas of such low rainfall do trees grow as tall as they do in the woodlands of the Eastern Goldfields. Rainfall records confirm that heavy summer storms are not uncommon and this summer rain could be a major reason for the survival of the Eucalypt regeneration observed in this study and elsewhere in the Eastern Goldfields.

Two study areas were investigated. One was a Eucalyptus salmonophloia woodland near Kambalda, and the other was a E.salubris var glauca woodland near the St. Ives mine south-east of Lake Lefroy. At both areas releves were measured in cut and uncut sites. Each releve was 10 m x lOm, and for each species present its cover abundance was measured on the Braun-Blanquet scale. Analysis of the data was carried out by a computer program, VEGCLASS, that caters for both classification and ordination. At the Kambalda study area the vegetation on the cut and uncut releves was similar enough to be generally grouped together by the analysis. The same applied at the St. Ives study area. However when the vegetation at the Kambalda and St. Ives study areas was compared, the analysis showed that the vegetation belonged to two different units.

This pilot study suggests that many more releves should be measured so that future work can attempt to answer the three basic questions needed to unravel this extensive environmental puzzle:

Are there any differences in vegetation between cut and uncut sites?

If there are differences, what are they due to?

If there are differences, how important are they to the future management of the area?

Should a similar operation involving timber removal in the Eastern Goldfields be proposed in the future, the answers to these questions will help provide a sound basis for future environmental management.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Brenna, B., Bridgewater, Peter, Newbey, K. and Boardman, W.
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