” … the potential amount of avoided emissions is much larger,
and therefore there’s much more to be gained from protecting
them from logging. It means the risks of logging are bigger
than we thought.”
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
August 5, 2008
Logging bigger risk than realised: study
Ben Cubby, Environment Reporter
WILD eucalypt forests across south-eastern Australia store far more
carbon than previously thought, according to research that has
far-ranging implications for climate change policy.
The Australian Greenhouse Office and the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change have underestimated the amount of carbon held in
native eucalyptus forests and soils by up to 400 per cent,
researchers at the Australian National University say.
“There is much more carbon in our natural forests than we thought,”
said Brendan Mackey, a professor at the Australian National
University, who led the research group. “This means the potential
amount of avoided emissions is much larger, and therefore there’s
much more to be gained from protecting them from logging. It means
the risks of logging are bigger than we thought.”
The study found that Australia’s 14.5 million hectares of undisturbed
eucalypt forest holds 9.3 billion tonnes of carbon in its wood and
soil, offsetting about 460 million tonnes of carbon emissions each
year for the next century.
Figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the
world’s peak organisation for climate change study, showed the same
forests as capable of storing 3.1 billion tonnes. The Federal
Government’s accounting system also underestimated the carbon
storage, because it is designed to measure biomass growth in
reafforestation and plantation forests, rather than dense bushland
that has never been disturbed.
“To be fair to the IPCC and the greenhouse office, these are their
default volumes,” Professor Mackey said. “They were calling for
better local data and we have produced that.”
Although young plantations absorb carbon quickly as they grow, this
does not compensate for the big carbon losses when established
forests are cut down for the first time, the university team found.
The report, which draws on decades of research into soil and wood
samples as well as new field work, examined carbon storage at 240
sites across southern NSW, Tasmania and Victoria.
The most carbon-rich treescapes are those dominated by the Eucalyptus
regnans, or mountain ash, found in Tasmania and Victoria’s central
The research has implications for climate change policy because it
shows that leaving existing forests alone is a better way of storing
carbon than replanting, Professor Mackey said.
The Government’s discussion paper on carbon trading, released last
month, proposed that carbon permits could be accrued by creating new
plantation forests, but not by preserving existing forests.
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