Deriving Multiple Benefits from Carbon Market-Based Savanna Fire Management: An Australian Example.
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.
Project description:Savanna fires produce significant emissions globally, but if managed effectively could provide an important mitigation opportunity, particularly in African least developed countries. Here we show global opportunities for emissions reductions through early dry season burning for 37 countries including: 29 countries in Africa (69.1?MtCO<sub>2</sub>-e?yr<sup>-1</sup>), six countries in South America (13.3?MtCO<sub>2</sub>-e?yr<sup>-1</sup>), and Australia and Papua New Guinea (6.9?MtCO<sub>2</sub>-e?yr<sup>-1</sup>). Emissions reduction estimates are based on the successful approach developed in Australia to reduce emissions from savanna fires using global-scale, remotely sensed estimates of monthly emissions. Importantly, 20 least developed countries in Africa account for 74% of the mitigation potential (60.2?MtCO<sub>2</sub>-e?yr<sup>-1</sup>). More than 1.02?million?km<sup>2</sup> of savanna dominated protected areas within these countries could be used as pilot sites to test and advance a regional approach to mitigation efforts for savanna fires in Africa. Potential versus actual abatement opportunities are discussed.
Project description:The nature and scale of pre-Columbian land use and the consequences of the 1492 "Columbian Encounter" (CE) on Amazonia are among the more debated topics in New World archaeology and paleoecology. However, pre-Columbian human impact in Amazonian savannas remains poorly understood. Most paleoecological studies have been conducted in neotropical forest contexts. Of studies done in Amazonian savannas, none has the temporal resolution needed to detect changes induced by either climate or humans before and after A.D. 1492, and only a few closely integrate paleoecological and archaeological data. We report a high-resolution 2,150-y paleoecological record from a French Guianan coastal savanna that forces reconsideration of how pre-Columbian savanna peoples practiced raised-field agriculture and how the CE impacted these societies and environments. Our combined pollen, phytolith, and charcoal analyses reveal unexpectedly low levels of biomass burning associated with pre-A.D. 1492 savanna raised-field agriculture and a sharp increase in fires following the arrival of Europeans. We show that pre-Columbian raised-field farmers limited burning to improve agricultural production, contrasting with extensive use of fire in pre-Columbian tropical forest and Central American savanna environments, as well as in present-day savannas. The charcoal record indicates that extensive fires in the seasonally flooded savannas of French Guiana are a post-Columbian phenomenon, postdating the collapse of indigenous populations. The discovery that pre-Columbian farmers practiced fire-free savanna management calls into question the widely held assumption that pre-Columbian Amazonian farmers pervasively used fire to manage and alter ecosystems and offers fresh perspectives on an emerging alternative approach to savanna land use and conservation that can help reduce carbon emissions.
Project description:Although grassland and savanna occupy only a quarter of the world's vegetation, burning in these ecosystems accounts for roughly half the global carbon emissions from fire. However, the processes that govern changes in grassland burning are poorly understood, particularly on time scales beyond satellite records. We analyzed microcharcoal, sediments, and geochemistry in a high-resolution marine sediment core off Namibia to identify the processes that have controlled biomass burning in southern African grassland ecosystems under large, multimillennial-scale climate changes. Six fire cycles occurred during the past 170,000 y in southern Africa that correspond both in timing and magnitude to the precessional forcing of north-south shifts in the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Contrary to the conventional expectation that fire increases with higher temperatures and increased drought, we found that wetter and cooler climates cause increased burning in the study region, owing to a shift in rainfall amount and seasonality (and thus vegetation flammability). We also show that charcoal morphology (i.e., the particle's length-to-width ratio) can be used to reconstruct changes in fire activity as well as biome shifts over time. Our results provide essential context for understanding current and future grassland-fire dynamics and their associated carbon emissions.
Project description:Fire is a major determinant of savanna tree communities and, as such, manipulation of fire frequency is an important management tool. Resolving the effects of fire management on tree size class distributions can help managers predict and plan for short-term ecological and economic outcomes, reveal different strategies by which woody plants cope with frequent fire, and help us predict vegetation changes under future fire scenarios. Savanna structure and size class distribution are strongly influenced by the ability of suppressed tree resprouts to escape stem death by frequent fire. A widespread assumption is that resprouts have an imperative to escape fire to reach sexual maturity in the canopy and thereby ensure long-term species viability. We use a census of Australian mesic savanna tree communities subjected to annual, triennial, and fire exclusion (unburnt) fire treatments to ask how fire frequency affects size class distributions within and between eco-taxonomic groups of species. Total tree densities did not significantly differ, but were highest in the triennial (7,610 ± se 1,162 trees ha-1) and unburnt fire treatments (7,051 ± se 578 trees ha-1) and lowest in the annual fire treatment (6,168 ± se 523 trees ha-1). This was caused by increased sapling densities in the triennial and unburnt fire treatments, predominantly of Acacia and pantropical genera. Eucalypts (Eucalyptus and Corymbia spp.) dominated the canopy across all fire treatments indicating relatively greater success in recruiting to larger sizes than other species groups. However, in the sub-canopy size classes eucalypts co-dominated with, and in some size classes were outnumbered by, pantropicals and Acacia, regardless of fire treatment. We hypothesize that such results are caused by fundamental differences in woody plant strategies, in particular sexual reproduction, that have not been widely recognized in Australian savannas.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Forest encroachment into savanna is occurring at an unprecedented rate across tropical Africa, leading to a loss of valuable savanna habitat. One of the first stages of forest encroachment is the establishment of tree seedlings at the forest-savanna transition. This study examines the demographic bottleneck in the seedlings of five species of tropical forest pioneer trees in a forest-savanna transition zone in West Africa. Five species of tropical pioneer forest tree seedlings were planted in savanna, mixed/transition, and forest vegetation types and grown for 12 months, during which time fire occurred in the area. We examined seedling survival rates, height, and stem diameter before and after fire; and seedling biomass and starch allocation patterns after fire. Seedling survival rates were significantly affected by fire, drought, and vegetation type. Seedlings that preferentially allocated more resources to increasing root and leaf starch (starch storage helps recovery from fire) survived better in savanna environments (frequently burnt), while seedlings that allocated more resources to growth and resource-capture traits (height, the number of leaves, stem diameter, specific leaf area, specific root length, root-to-shoot ratio) survived better in mixed/transition and forest environments. Larger (taller with a greater stem diameter) seedlings survived burning better than smaller seedlings. However, larger seedlings survived better than smaller ones even in the absence of fire. Bombax buonopozense was the forest species that survived best in the savanna environment, likely as a result of increased access to light allowing greater investment in belowground starch storage capacity and therefore a greater ability to cope with fire. SYNTHESIS:Forest pioneer tree species survived best through fire and drought in the savanna compared to the other two vegetation types. This was likely a result of the open-canopied savanna providing greater access to light, thereby releasing seedlings from light limitation and enabling them to make and store more starch. Fire can be used as a management tool for controlling forest encroachment into savanna as it significantly affects seedling survival. However, if rainfall increases as a result of global change factors, encroachment may be more difficult to control as seedling survival ostensibly increases when the pressure of drought is lifted. We propose B. buonopozense as an indicator species for forest encroachment into savanna in West African forest-savanna transitions.
Project description:A present challenge in fire ecology is to optimize management techniques so that ecological services are maximized and C emissions minimized. Here, we modeled the effects of different prescribed-burning rotation intervals and wildfires on carbon emissions (present and future) in British moorlands. Biomass-accumulation curves from four Calluna-dominated ecosystems along a north-south gradient in Great Britain were calculated and used within a matrix-model based on Markov Chains to calculate above-ground biomass-loads and annual C emissions under different prescribed-burning rotation intervals. Additionally, we assessed the interaction of these parameters with a decreasing wildfire return intervals. We observed that litter accumulation patterns varied between sites. Northern sites (colder and wetter) accumulated lower amounts of litter with time than southern sites (hotter and drier). The accumulation patterns of the living vegetation dominated by Calluna were determined by site-specific conditions. The optimal prescribed-burning rotation interval for minimizing annual carbon emissions also differed between sites: the optimal rotation interval for northern sites was between 30 and 50 years, whereas for southern sites a hump-backed relationship was found with the optimal interval either between 8 to 10 years or between 30 to 50 years. Increasing wildfire frequency interacted with prescribed-burning rotation intervals by both increasing C emissions and modifying the optimum prescribed-burning interval for minimum C emission. This highlights the importance of studying site-specific biomass accumulation patterns with respect to environmental conditions for identifying suitable fire-rotation intervals to minimize C emissions.
Project description:In response to a strong El Niño, fires in Indonesia during September and October 2015 released a large amount of carbon dioxide and created a massive regional smoke cloud that severely degraded air quality in many urban centers across Southeast Asia. Although several lines of evidence indicate that peat burning was a dominant contributor to emissions in the region, El Niñ<i>o</i>-induced drought is also known to increase deforestation fires and agricultural waste burning in plantations. As a result, uncertainties remain with respect to partitioning emissions among different ecosystem and fire types. Here we measured the radiocarbon content (<sup>14</sup>C) of carbonaceous aerosol samples collected in Singapore from September 2014 through October 2015, with the aim of identifying the age and origin of fire-emitted fine particulate matter (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 2.5 ?m). The ?<sup>14</sup>C of fire-emitted aerosol was -76 ± 51‰, corresponding to a carbon pool of combusted organic matter with a mean turnover time of 800 ± 420 y. Our observations indicated that smoke plumes reaching Singapore originated primarily from peat burning (?85%), and not from deforestation fires or waste burning. Atmospheric transport modeling confirmed that fires in Sumatra and Borneo were dominant contributors to elevated PM<sub>2.5</sub> in Singapore during the fire season. The mean age of the carbonaceous aerosol, which predates the Industrial Revolution, highlights the importance of improving peatland fire management during future El Niño events for meeting climate mitigation and air quality commitments.
Project description:We characterize the agreement and disagreement of four publically available burned products (Fire CCI, Copernicus Burnt Area, MODIS MCD45A1, and MODIS MCD64A1) at a finer spatial and temporal scale than previous assessments using a grid of three-dimensional cells defined both in space and in time. Our analysis, conducted using seven years of data (2005-2011), shows that estimates of burned area vary greatly between products in terms of total area burned, the location of burning, and the timing of the burning. We use regional and monthly units for analysis to provide insight into the variation between products that can be lost when considering products yearly and/or globally. Comparison with independent, contemporaneous MODIS active fire observations provides one indication of which products most reasonably capture the burning regime. Our results have implications for the use of global burned area products in fire ecology, management and emissions applications.
Project description:Fire is an integral part of savanna ecology and changes in fire patterns are linked to biodiversity loss in savannas worldwide. In Australia, changed fire regimes are implicated in the contemporary declines of small mammals, riparian species, obligate-seeding plants and grass seed-eating birds. Translating this knowledge into management to recover threatened species has proved elusive. We report here on a landscape-scale experiment carried out by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) on Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in northwest Australia. The experiment was designed to understand the response of a key savanna bird guild to fire, and to use that information to manage fire with the aim of recovering a threatened species population. We compared condition indices among three seed-eating bird species--one endangered (Gouldian finch) and two non-threatened (long-tailed finch and double-barred finch)--from two large areas (> 2,830 km2) with initial contrasting fire regimes ('extreme': frequent, extensive, intense fire; versus 'benign': less frequent, smaller, lower intensity fires). Populations of all three species living with the extreme fire regime had condition indices that differed from their counterparts living with the benign fire regime, including higher haematocrit levels in some seasons (suggesting higher levels of activity required to find food), different seasonal haematocrit profiles, higher fat scores in the early wet season (suggesting greater food uncertainty), and then lower muscle scores later in the wet season (suggesting prolonged food deprivation). Gouldian finches also showed seasonally increasing stress hormone concentrations with the extreme fire regime. Cumulatively, these patterns indicated greater nutritional stress over many months for seed-eating birds exposed to extreme fire regimes. We tested these relationships by monitoring finch condition over the following years, as AWC implemented fire management to produce the 'benign' fire regime throughout the property. The condition indices of finch populations originally living with the extreme fire regime shifted to resemble those of their counterparts living with the benign fire regime. This research supports the hypothesis that fire regimes affect food resources for savanna seed-eating birds, with this impact mediated through a range of grass species utilised by the birds over different seasons, and that fire management can effectively moderate that impact. This work provides a rare example of applied research supporting the recovery of a population of a threatened species.
Project description:Amazonian deforestation from slash-and-burn practices is a significant contributor to biomass burning within Brazil. Fires emit carbonaceous aerosols that negatively impact human health by increasing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure. These negative effects on health compound the already detrimental climatological and ecological impacts. Despite high biomass burning emissions in Brazil and the international attention drawn by the relaxation of Amazon protections in 2019, little is known about the health impacts from PM2.5 exposure attributable to these fires. We estimate PM2.5-related premature deaths in Brazil associated with biomass burning, focusing on temporal, interannual, and spatial trends. We find that during the fire season of 2019, 4,966 (2,427, 8,340) premature deaths were attributable to fire emissions making up 10% (5, 17) of all PM2.5-related premature deaths in Brazil. Between the 2019 and 2018 seasons, fire emissions increased by 1.37 Tg (1.00, 2.18) or 115% (60, 201), which was responsible for an increase in health impacts of 2,109 (965, 3,623) premature deaths or 74% (54, 98). Biomass burning emissions throughout Brazil contribute significantly to premature deaths, with the largest burning events occurring in northwestern Brazil. The impact of fires on PM2.5-related premature deaths is highest in heavily populated regions despite their fires being 1 to 2 orders of magnitude smaller than the largest burning events. Results from this study characterize the extent to which elevated PM2.5 exposure levels owing to fires affect public health in Brazil and present an additional, public health-focused, support for increased Amazon protections.