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Australian forests, megafires and the risk of dwindling carbon stocks


Bowman, DMJS and Williamson, GJ and Price, OF and Ndalila, MN and Bradstock, RA, Australian forests, megafires and the risk of dwindling carbon stocks, Plant Cell and Environment, 44, (2) pp. 347-355. ISSN 0140-7791 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/pce.13916


Over the Austral spring and summer of 2019/20 > 7 million ha of Eucalyptus forest and woodland, including some of Australia's most carbon dense ecosystems, were burnt on the east coast of Australia. We estimated bootstrapped mean CO2 emissions of c. 0.67 Pg, with other available estimates ranging from 0.55 to 0.85 Pg. Eucalyptus forests are renowned for their ability to resist and recover from wildfire so it would be expected that emitted CO2 will be reabsorbed. The combination of drought and frequent fires is likely reducing the capacity to recover from the fire so future Australian forests may store less carbon. Broadscale prescribed burning is a widely promoted approach to reduce uncontrolled wildfires, yet the benefits for the management of carbon stores are controversial. Prescribed burning can reduce carbon losses from subsequent wildfire, yet the "carbon costs" of it may equal or outweigh the "carbon benefits" in reduced wildfire emissions. Likewise, mechanical thinning of vegetation to reduce fuel loads also carries heavy carbon costs with uncertain carbon benefits. Research involving empirical measurements, modelling and a mix of large-scale management intervention is urgently required to determine what interventions can maximise carbon storage in the face of climate change-driven fires.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biogeography, carbon dynamics, climate change, drought, Eucalyptus forest, fire
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Forestry sciences
Research Field:Forestry fire management
Objective Division:Plant Production and Plant Primary Products
Objective Group:Forestry
Objective Field:Native forests
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
UTAS Author:Williamson, GJ (Dr Grant Williamson)
UTAS Author:Ndalila, MN (Ms Mercy Ndalila)
ID Code:141584
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:28
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2020-10-30
Last Modified:2021-09-21

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