Nolan, RH, Sinclair, J, Waters, CM, Mitchell, PJ, Eldridge, DJ, Paul, KI, Roxburgh, S, Butler, DW & Ramp, D 2019, 'Risks to carbon dynamics in semi-arid woodlands of eastern Australia under current and future climates.', Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 235, pp. 500-510.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Extreme disturbance events, such as wildfire and drought, have large impacts on carbon storage and sequestration of forests and woodlands globally. Here, we present a modelling approach that assesses the relative impact of disturbances on carbon storage and sequestration, and how this will alter under climate change. Our case study is semi-arid Australia where large areas of land are managed to offset over 122 million tonnes of anthropogenic carbon emissions over a 100-year period. These carbon offsets include mature vegetation that has been protected from clearing and regenerating vegetation on degraded agricultural land. We use a Bayesian Network model to combine multiple probabilistic models of the risk posed by fire, drought, grazing and recruitment failure to carbon dynamics. The model is parameterised from a review of relevant literature and additional quantitative analyses presented here. We found that the risk of vegetation becoming a net source of carbon due to a mortality event, or failing to realise maximum sequestration potential, through recruitment failure in regenerating vegetation, was primarily a function of rainfall in this semi-arid environment. However, the relative size of an emissions event varied across vegetation communities depending on plant attributes, specifically resprouting capacity. Modelled climate change effects were variable, depending on the climate change projection used. Under 'best-case' or 'most-likely' climate scenarios for 2050, similar or increased projections of mean annual precipitation, associated with a build-up of fuel, were expected to drive an increase in fire activity (a 40-160% increase), but a decrease in drought (a 20-35% decrease). Under a 'worst-case' climate scenario, fire activity was expected to decline (a 37% decrease), but drought conditions remain similar (a 5% decrease). These projected changes to the frequency of drought and fire increase the risk that vegetation used for carbon offsetting will fail t...
Nolan, RH, Sinclair, J, Eldridge, DJ & Ramp, D 2018, 'Biophysical risks to carbon sequestration and storage in Australian drylands.', Journal of environmental management, vol. 208, pp. 102-111.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Carbon abatement schemes that reduce land clearing and promote revegetation are now an important component of climate change policy globally. There is considerable potential for these schemes to operate in drylands which are spatially extensive. However, projects in these environments risk failure through unplanned release of stored carbon to the atmosphere. In this review, we identify factors that may adversely affect the success of vegetation-based carbon abatement projects in dryland ecosystems, evaluate their likelihood of occurrence, and estimate the potential consequences for carbon storage and sequestration. We also evaluate management strategies to reduce risks posed to these carbon abatement projects. Identified risks were primarily disturbances, including unplanned fire, drought, and grazing. Revegetation projects also risk recruitment failure, thereby failing to reach projected rates of sequestration. Many of these risks are dependent on rainfall, which is highly variable in drylands and susceptible to further variation under climate change. Resprouting vegetation is likely to be less vulnerable to disturbance and have faster recovery rates upon release from disturbance. We conclude that there is a strong impetus for identifying management strategies and risk reduction mechanisms for carbon abatement projects. Risk mitigation would be enhanced by effective co-ordination of mitigation strategies at scales larger than individual abatement project boundaries, and by implementing risk assessment throughout project planning and implementation stages. Reduction of risk is vital for maximising carbon sequestration of individual projects and for reducing barriers to the establishment of new projects entering the market.