Deriving Multiple Benefits from Carbon Market-Based Savanna Fire Management: An Australian Example

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    Abstract

    Carbon markets afford potentially useful opportunities for supporting socially and environmentally sustainable land management programs but, to date, have been little applied in globally significant fire-prone savanna settings. While fire is intrinsic to regulating the composition, structure and dynamics of savanna systems, in north Australian savannas frequent and extensive late dry season wildfires incur significant environmental, production and social impacts. Here we assess the potential of market-based savanna burning greenhouse gas emissions abatement and allied carbon biosequestration projects to deliver compatible environmental and broader socio-economic benefits in a highly biodiverse north Australian setting.

    Drawing on extensive regional ecological knowledge of fire regime effects on fire-vulnerable taxa and communities, we compare three fire regime metrics (seasonal fire frequency, proportion of long-unburnt vegetation, fire patch-size distribution) over a 15-year period for three national parks with an indigenously (Aboriginal) owned and managed market-based emissions abatement enterprise. Our assessment indicates improved fire management outcomes under the emissions abatement program, and mostly little change or declining outcomes on the parks. We attribute improved outcomes and putative biodiversity benefits under the abatement program to enhanced strategic management made possible by the market-based mitigation arrangement.

    For these same sites we estimate quanta of carbon credits that could be delivered under realistic enhanced fire management practice, using currently available and developing accredited Australian savanna burning accounting methods. We conclude that, in appropriate situations, market-based savanna burning activities can provide transformative climate change mitigation, ecosystem health, and community benefits in northern Australia, and, despite significant challenges, potentially in other fire-prone savanna settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0143426
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    Number of pages21
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume10
    Issue number12
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Keywords

    • Article
    • Australia
    • Australian Aborigine
    • carbon
    • carbon footprint
    • carbon sequestration
    • climate change
    • conservation biology
    • ecosystem health
    • environmental impact
    • environmental management
    • environmental sustainability
    • fire protection
    • greenhouse gas
    • national park
    • savanna
    • socioeconomics
    • soil management
    • vegetation

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