Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers (ASX: KPT) has confirmed that 90 per cent of its trees on the island are "no longer productive" following the raging bushfires on KI that decimated most of the western half of the island in January.
KPT says because the fire was so intense it burnt all the way up to the canopy of the forest.
"As a general rule, survival rates among fire-damages eucalyptus globulus (the main species grown on Kangaroo Island) are low when fire has entered the canopy, meaning that the growing crown has been scorched or consumed," says KPT.
"The other two species grown commercially on Kangaroo Island, eucalyptus nitens and pinus radiata, do not tolerate crown fire and are likely to be killed completely in anything other than mild ground fire."
As a result, the company estimates that only five per cent of its treecrop has not been affected by the bushfires, with a further five per cent affected by predominantly ground damage with only minor canopy damage.
As for the remaining 90 per cent, those trees suffered from fires that reached all the way to the canopy of the plantation, which was severe in 35 per cent of the estate and complete to the point of total defoliation in 55 per cent of cases.
"The effect of this is that, whether individual trees go on to produce new growth or not, an estimated 90 per cent of KIPT's trees are, for all practical and economic purposes, no longer productive," says KPT.
"When the treecrops of independent growers are included, this means that approximately 15,000 ha of plantations will need to be felled in order to return the land to production. This task is urgent, as timber quality deteriorates with time, even when stockpiled under ideal conditions."
The company, which remains in a trading halt, is still considering what it will do with the affected timber; it might be exported and sold as logs, chips, or pellets. KPT believes that selling the affected timber like this would effectively subsidise the land-clearing operations that are now required.
KPT is currently attempting to receive approval for a deep-water warf at Smith Bay on the North Coast of the island.
"The proposed KI Seaport will be essential to enable the removable and sale of trees that would otherwise need to be chain-felled and completely burnt in situ: a costly process that would take several years, releasing considerably more smoke and CO2 than the fast-moving and intense fires of December and January," says KPT.
"The KI Seaport can also play an important role in building resilience in the Island's economy, as a significant capital works project, and, when completed, by enabling import and export activity in non-forestry sectors."
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