Managing tropical fires for greenhouse gas abatement

Tiwi Ranger Leon Puruntatameri lighting experimental fires as part of the Tiwi Carbon Study. Credit: CSIRO Darwin
Tiwi Ranger Leon Puruntatameri lighting experimental fires as part of the Tiwi Carbon Study. Credit: CSIRO Darwin

The economic potential of carbon is the focus of a new fire project on the Tiwi Islands, 80 kilometres north of Darwin in the Northern Territory and home to 2,000 Aboriginal Australians. Nearly half of the Tiwi Islands are burnt every year, resulting in significant greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the extent of fire may provide substantial financial benefits under the emerging carbon economy.

Tiwi leaders have identified the urgency of developing an independent economy in order to address decades of social disadvantage. The Tiwi Land Council Rangers, the Tiwi College and CSIRO are working together to explore livelihood opportunities for managing fire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining the special biodiversity values of the Tiwi Islands.

The research team, led by CSIRO ecologist Dr Alan Andersen, is studying the effects of different fire management options on carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity.

CSIRO’s modelling indicates that there could be substantial increases in carbon stocks and reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases from reducing fire frequency, which could also have important biodiversity benefits.

The Tiwi Carbon Study features a series of long-term monitoring plots that are subject to different fire management options.

For more information: CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Alan Andersen, Tel: +61 (8) 8944 8431, Alan.Andersen@csiro.au, www.csiro.au/science/Fire-Carbon-Study.html

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