Measuring forest carbon and fire emission from southern Eucalyptus forests: key findings and some lessons learnt

This is a paper presented at the 2013 Bushfire CRC Research Forum.

Managing the frequency and intensity of planned burning in forests to reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfire as well as maximize long-term carbon storage in biomass and soil is wholly dependent on a good understanding of the impacts of burning, across a range of intensities, on forest carbon density and carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Australia’s current approach for estimating State and National fire-related emissions of greenhouse gases from forests is constrained by a limited knowledge of the mass of fuels consumed and emissions from major fuel type. To assist in addressing these gaps in knowledge we describe a methodology for measuring fire impact on each of the main categories of forest carbon and discuss key findings from application of the method across a wide range of eucalypt forests in south- eastern Australia. This forest fuels and emissions dataset clearly shows that coarse woody fuels, currently not included in fuel inventories, contribute significantly to emissions. We also suggest a range of sampling intensities to improve carbon emission estimates for each major fuel category and discuss the advantages of moving towards accounting for all fuels strata in fire and emissions management at a landscape scale.