MORE than 125 mature willow trees have been poisoned by Hepburn Shire Council at Daylesford’s Jubilee Lake in the first stage of the council’s environmental management program.
Minor works were initially carried out on the spillway on the dam wall, where it was discovered willow roots had caused the water level to rise by half a metre, so the decision was made to remove a hectare of willow trees around the lake.
Internationally renowned ecological land manager, Dr David Holmgren, said the poisoning of the willows was a disaster given they are the largest natural air conditioner in the region.
He said the cooling effect of a deciduous tree with an 80 metre square surface area, exposed to sun and growing in moist soil, was comparable to more than 10 air conditioning units.
Dr Holmgren wrote a report to the council about the state of the trees and their environmental impact in August 2018, but says it was not taken into account.
He said the nativist approach of willow removal programs hold the view introduced species are bad for the environment, but this had been refuted by new scientific evidence discovered by leading willow researcher Michael Wilson.
One piece of evidence is that willows shade out the pervasive blackberry species to form an everglade ecology, while acting as a long term sustainable and low cost management solution as opposed to herbicides, which degrade soils. Another is that willows capture 40 times more sediment and 10 per cent more phosphorous than eucalyptus trees.
“The willows create a swamp land that slows the water down, purifies it and prevents turbidity and blue green algae blooms,” he said.
“While this prejudice against naturalised species, commonly demonised as weeds, enjoys some passionate support in the community and is considered best practice by our bureaucracies with the public money and poison, the promoters and instigators of these practices consistently refuse invitations to formal public debates on the merits or otherwise of willow destruction,” he said.
Though there is no saving the trees which have been injected, Dr Holmgren wants a debate so the community has an opportunity to hear the opposing views about a willow’s place in the eco system.
The council did not respond by time of print.
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