Savanna carbon sequestration method

28 September 2016

A Northern Hub project is improving our ability to better measure the value of improved fire management to greenhouse gas abatement.

Under the Federal Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative, the Emissions Abatement through Savanna Fire Management Methodology allows land managers to earn carbon credits by conducting controlled burning in the early dry season to minimise highly intense fires later in the season.

Land managers earn credits by reducing the amount of methane and nitrous oxide released into the air.

However, the CSIRO’s Principal Research Scientist Garry Cook says this approach needs to also recognise the increased amount of stored carbon as a result of changed fire regimes.

By reducing the area burnt, more dead organic matter, such as woody debris is left untouched and the storage of carbon increases. “There is potential to increase the accountable greenhouse benefit by about three times by including the carbon stock of dead organic matter. However, there is currently a lack of data to robustly quantify stored carbon in dead organic matter in lower rainfall savannas.
– Dr Garry Cook


Dr Cook is leading a team of researchers from the CSIRO to improve our ability to calculate the carbon benefit in dead organic matter from changed fire regimes in lower rainfall savannas across northern Australia.

By accounting for carbon stored in coarser woody debris, as well as the non-C02 greenhouse gases, we can better quantify the value to greenhouse gas abatement. This has the potential to increase the incentive for land managers to adopt improved fire practices, by allowing them to earn additional carbon credits.

– Dr Cook


The researchers will develop a carbon budget for woody debris for 600 – 1000 mm rainfall savannas across northern Australia. This will involve quantifying two key parts of the carbon budget – the annual inputs from branch fall and tree death, and the annual decomposition of dead wood due to such processes as fungal attack and termite consumption.

An accounting framework will also be developed to ensure that these data provide useful inputs to both a carbon farming methodology and the national greenhouse gas inventory.

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