South Australia - a feeling of home
After almost a year spent surrounded by Eucalyptus trees and native Australian bush, there was this wonderful feeling of returning home once we hit the expansive coniferous forests of Southern Australia. This territory was so different from anything else we had experienced in this country. The landscape was made up of lush green rolling hills littered with sheep & the air was crisp and invigorating after a long journey.
Although the change of scenery brought feelings of familiarity to us, we became curious about the history of this region and how these forests developed. After some research on the region, we discovered that South Australia's forestry industry began in 1876 with a combination of Native, North American, and European pines brought over for trial plantings. South Australia's Department of Woods and Forests is believed to be one of the oldest forestry authorities in the world and the first formed in the British Commonwealth.
The species that has had the most success in this climate is the Pinus Radiata or Monterey Pine - a conifer native to Mexico & California's Central Coast. Although this tree has been widely adopted for pulp and timber in temperate climates all over the world, it is considered endangered in its indigenous range. This incredible pine serves many crucial roles in its native ecosystems - as a wintering habitat for the declining population of monarch butterflies and as the dominant host to the Piperia Yadonii - a rare & endangered orchid endemic to Monterey County, California.
The commercial appeal of the Monterey Pine is its ability to grow quickly - reaching its full height after about 40 years. It is the dominant tree species in Australia's forestry industry and has become a problem in many regions, displacing native forests and resulting in the substantial loss of habitat for Australian wildlife. Pinus Radiata also makes up 95% of Chile's lumber industry, having devastating effects on local ecology. The Monterey Pine has largely displaced Chile's Valdivian Rain Forest, home to the world's smallest deer - the southern pudu, South America's smallest cat - the kodkod, and a tiny arboreal marsupial known as the monito del monte "little mountain monkey". These animals are a part of this forest's history as all things are connected to one another, even if they seem worlds away.
Experiencing this region & capturing these images compelled us to dig deeper into the history of the forest, the story we may not have heard from those who do not have voices to speak it. Although it was a breathtaking drive, the scene felt strange - rows and rows of pines with only the occasional fallen kangaroo on the road to remind us where we were.