News from the CRC
Book explores a new industry based on fire in the north
The potential of using bushfire as a management tool to reduce Northern Australia’s carbon footprint shows how science can support the development of new industries in northern Australia.
In launching the important new book, Carbon Accounting and Savanna Fire Managementat Charles Darwin University yesterday, CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC Dr Richard Thornton said that science is integral to investment across the top of the country.
"The emissions of greenhouse gasses from extensive late dry season fires in northern Australia has been a problem for many years, as has the associated dramatic decline on biodiversity in hotspots such as the Arnhem land plateau," Dr Thornton said.
"Far-sited research investments from a number of successive CRC’s in the north of Australia has now seen a whole new industry develop across the vast reaches of northern Australia. This industry sees landholders, indigenous communities and pastoralists, managing fire and dramatically shifting the season of fire to the early dry season, rather than the hotter and uncontrollable fires seen in the late dry season.
"By doing this the landholders generate carbon credits which can be sold on the international market for real cash. Which in turn can be used to support the traditional owners to manage the fire regime.
"Carbon Accounting and Savanna Fire Management is the second in a series of books that have highlighted the detailed, meticulous science and validation which has underpinned this new industry.
"This work is the culmination of astute investments in research, initially by the Tropical Savanna’s CRC, followed by investments from the Bushfire CRC and now further investment by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, together with contributions from governments, both Commonwealth and Territory, and the private sector. The development of a whole new industry is testament to the type of long-term investment possible through structures such as CRCs and in particular illustrate the importance of a multi-disciplined dedicated team made up of remote sensing experts, ecologists, anthropologists and sociologists to name a few.
"This new industry is now generating meaningful jobs for indigenous people, restoring some of the jewels of Australia’s biodiversity and increasing resilience in remote Australia. It is a win for all concerned," Dr Thornton said.
Carbon Accounting and Savanna Fire Management is edited by Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC researchers Dr Andrew Edwards and Adj Prof Jeremy Russell-Smith from Charles Darwin University, along with the University of Melbourne's Dr Brett Murphy and CSIRO's Mick Meyer. The book brings together more than a decade of research and aims to ignite interest in the methodology of 'fighting fire with fire'.
CRC directors were on hand to hear directly from the researchers about the work underway through the CRC in northern Australia, with the launch coinciding with a CRC Board Meeting in Darwin.
Dr Andrew Edwards said that the savannas of Northern Australia were some of the world’s most flammable landscapes, providing a potentially huge market for alternate income for land managers.
“Management of fires in this region has the potential to assist with meeting emissions reduction targets, as well as conserving biodiversity and providing employment for Indigenous people in remote parts of Australia’s north,” Dr Edwards said.
The book, contributed to by many of north Australia’s pre-eminent Indigenous and non-Indigenous bushfire experts and land managers, details the extensive science underpinning the methodology used to determine carbon credits through fire management.
“We are talking about the future of land management, where managers acquire payment for ecosystem services,” Dr Edwards said. “In the context of Australia’s developing carbon economy, the methodology can be used to help abate emissions of greenhouse gases, which is an important means of generating carbon credits.”
Since its inception in 2009, the methodology has been formally accredited as part of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and is increasingly being used by land managers to create strategic prescribed fire management to gain payment for ecosystem services.
“Currently there are 33 projects occurring throughout Northern Australia where land managers are applying greenhouse gas accounting methodologies to the practice of fire management, with more set to come on-board this year,” Dr Edwards said.
He said the methodology allowed land managers to improve fire management.
“The methodology takes into account vegetation type, rainfall and fire frequency, allowing land managers to calculate fuel load,” he said. “By implementing the right strategy for their property they can implement a regime that reduces frequency and intensity, which reduces the amount of fuel consumed by fire.”
More information about the book, including how to purchase, can be found on the CSIRO Publishing website.