We debunk four common land clearing myths
There are many misconceptions about land clearing. Land clearing operators are often maligned as threats to nature preservation. No industry is perfect, and we accept that there will always be room for improvement. However, land clearing is critical to land development and environmental sustainability. Let’s bust some common land clearing myths.
Soil erosion is a serious concern. Erosion causes several negative consequences, including land infertility and increased flood risk. Rehabilitating eroded land is expensive, if possible at all. So, what part does land clearing play?
You might point to clearing efforts that use grubbing methods to uproot vegetation. Roots are essential to soil stability, so removing them increases erosion, right? Well, not if land clearing can avoid uprooting trees. Forestry mulching is a practical way to remove vegetation without harming the soil. Stumps get shredded without touching the root systems. Forestry mulching keeps the earth intact while providing space for further cultivation.
Soil erosion is not an inevitable consequence of land clearing. Sensible clearing projects using appropriate methods ensure the soil remains fertile and usable.
…destroys natural habitats
Australia is one of the world’s most biodiverse places. Much of our flora and fauna is endemic to our land. Australian ecosystems are delicate and susceptible to adverse change. Land clearing is an easy target for habitat destruction accusations. But, contrary to some land clearing myths, it can actually play a huge role in habitat conservation.
Mediating land development’s impact on the environment is an important issue. However, what people often overlook is the effects of noxious plants. Weeds are a major environmental concern. Toxic plant species overtake habitats and suffocate native plants. Native animals have greater difficulty finding food and creating shelter.
Land clearing is vital to controlling weed infestations and helping native habitats. Weeds are removed and out-competed for resources that suppress their regrowth. Mulching, in particular, traps moisture in the ground and creates positive conditions for beneficial vegetation.
The correct way to clear land.
… isn’t sustainable
Deforestation garners a lot of attention. Sensational headlines discuss land clearing rates in terms of “x number of football fields per day”. This reporting suggests land clearing is only ever antithetical to the environment. What if land clearing contributed to environmental sustainability?
Carbon capture is a critical solution to climate change. Forestry mulching provides many benefits that are often not considered. For example, improving carbon sequestration and nutrient levels in degraded soil. Incorporating mulched vegetation into the soil facilitates carbon capture by benefiting soil fauna.
Microorganisms are vital to maintaining soil health and promoting future growth. Let’s consider one in particular: mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi create symbiotic relationships with vegetation. The fungi form a network of fine strands called hyphae that attach to root systems, increasing their reach. These hyphae need carbon dioxide to grow. That means that these fungi are a significant source of carbon storage.
Incidentally, mycorrhizal fungi also help stabilise soil and prevent erosion. Just another way forestry mulching contributes to environmental sustainability.
… doesn’t protect communities
Climate change will likely cause more dramatic weather patterns in the future. Bushfires will become a more severe threat and more challenging to handle. The best way to resolve this issue is through preventative measures.
Bushfires need kindling. Forested areas provide large amounts of fuel with underbrush that builds over time. Fire is generally considered a destructive force. However, fires often play a role in maintaining an ecosystem by clearing underbrush and built-up detritus. Without frequent small fires, kindling builds, and a catastrophic fire eventually sparks.
Prescribed burning is a land clearing method that uses fire to rehabilitate overgrown areas. Mitigating the prevalence and intensity of bushfires protects communities and ensures healthy habitats.
However, contrary to some land clearing myths, prescribed burning isn’t the only or necessarily the best way to prevent bushfires. Forestry mulching could be a more effective option. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and regulates ground temperature. Creating space between trees provides firebreaks to reduce a bushfire’s ability to spread. You can achieve all this without deliberately lighting fires that may get out of control.
These land clearing myths spread about its supposedly negative environmental impact when the opposite is true. Hopefully, you’ll have a new perspective on land clearing’s role in environmental sustainability.