David Attenborough lobbies for new park

Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough

One of the world’s most famous naturalists, Sir David Attenborough is leading the charge for a new national park to be created in the Australian state of Victoria.

Attenborough, along with Jane Goodall, a conservationist best known for her work with gorillas, has called upon Victoria’s state politicians to establish a Green Forest National Park in an effort to save the endangered Leadbeater’s possum, Xinhua reported.

The marsupial is found strictly in the central highlands of Victoria. However, after 43 percent of its habitat was destroyed in the state’s “Black Saturday” bushfires in 2009, fewer than 1,000 Leadbeater’s possums remain in the wild today.

The proposed new national park, which would create a further 355,000 hectares of protected land, is being debated ahead of the state elections later this month.

Attenborough, whose television specials on wildlife and nature have made him recognised globally, hopes his stature will help the Victorian government push through with the plans.

“The maintenance of an intact ecological system is the only way to ensure the continued existence of biodiversity, safeguard water supplies and provide spiritual nourishment for ourselves and future generations,” Attenborough said.

“It is for these reasons, and for the survival of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, that I support the creation of the Green Forest National Park for Victoria.”

Goodall, who is renowned for her studies on primates, has also thrown her support behind the campaign.

“If we act now, we will be ensuring the forest can continue to provide services that support us with clean water, fresh air and storage of carbon,” she said. “If we fail now, what future will we have chosen for our grandchildren and their grandchildren?”

In a related development, researchers at the Australian National University (ANU), in partnership with technologists at Fujitsu Laboratories in Japan, announced Tuesday that Mountain Ash forests in the central Victoria, home to the Leadbeater’s possums, provide more value when protected and not logged.

Studies revealed that ending logging would double the amount of carbon stored in trees, regardless of the effects of bushfires.

“Quantifying natural resources and the services they provide for human well-being is important in evaluating land management decisions,” Heather Keith of the ANU said Tuesday.

“In a harvested forest, the amount of carbon stored in the regrowth forest, plus wood products and landfill, is about half that stored in the protected forest.

“In contrast, only about 10 percent of the carbon stock in the forest was combusted during the 2009 Victorian bushfires and most of this will be replaced within a decade in the re-growing forest. ”

The proposed Green Forest National Park falls in the electoral district of Eildon, which is being contested for the first time at the 2014 state elections.

It is expected to be won safely by the coalition government, which has signaled its intention to reject Attenborough’s proposals for the new national park. However, Labour and Greens candidates are likely to support the proposal following lobbying from environment groups.