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Monday, August 14, 2006

Exploring the Cement Creek Pine Plantation - Yarra Ranges National Park

The Cement Creek Plantation is 100 km east of Melbourne, 7 km NE of the town of Warburton, in the Yarra Ranges National Park. It is accessed from the Cement Creek Rd.

The images were taken on August 12, 2006, and show the Plantation (some trees date back to the 1930s), the adjacent management roads (shared with walkers), and some scenes along Cement Creek Rd.

The open channel sector of the O'Shannassy Aqueduct starts about 1 km to the west.

Historical Background

The conifer plantations in the Cement Creek Catchment were established by the Board of Works from 1930, following clearing of the original eucalypt forest. By the late 1920s, the cleared areas had become overgrown with scrub and other weeds, such as blackberry. Between 1929 and 1934, exotic conifers were progressively planted, basically as a weed control measure. The species that thrived included Bishop's pine (Pinus muricata), Douglas fir and Californian Redwood. The Board undertook an extensive regeneration program in the catchments at this time, particularly in areas that were failing to revegetate naturally through destruction by frequent fires. A wide variety of species were used but, in general, the Board utilised the seed and technology that was available for forest regeneration at that time.

Further areas were planted with Pinus radiata, Western Red Cedar and Redwood in 1960-63, and assessed in 1976. While the redwood species grew vigorously, the Radiata pine was of poor quality. The conifer plantations effectively suppressed any understorey vegetation.

The plantations were selected for experimental purposes as part of the Board's forest hydrology research program begun at Coranderrk in the 1950s. The Cement Creek plantation provided small plots in which to study the canopy interception results in comparison with the native forest trees in the Coranderrk area. The main aims of the research were to establish the relationship between vegetation type and water yield, and to evaluate the effect of forest operations on water yield and quality. Whilst the main focus was to establish data for different types of native forest catchment qualities, conifer plantations were included to give comparative data. The experiments undertaken at Coranderrk and Cement Creek included recording hydrological processes such as throughfall, stem flow and canopy interception. In all, the 1960s-70s program involving Cement Creek included five native forest communities and three conifer plantations.

Throughfall was measured by division of the plots into a square grid of 16 positions in each plot. All positions were numbered, troughs placed to collect throughfall, and measurements carried out weekly. Stemflow involved collecting water running down the stems of selected trees by a collar diverting water into a collection hose at the front, or by a spiral wound around the tree.

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