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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 20(4)

Fire and carbon dynamics under climate change in south-eastern Australia: insights from FullCAM and FIRESCAPE modelling

Karen J. King A B , Robert M. de Ligt A and Geoffrey J. Cary A

A The Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Acton, ACT 0200, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: karen.king@anu.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 20(4) 563-577 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF09073
Submitted: 8 July 2009  Accepted: 19 October 2010   Published: 20 June 2011


 
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Abstract

This study used simulation modelling to investigate fire and carbon dynamics for projected warmer and drier climates in the south-eastern Australian high country. A carbon accounting model FullCAM and the landscape fire regime simulator FIRESCAPE were combined and used to simulate several fire management options under three climate scenarios – the recent climate (1975–2005); a moderate climate projected for 2070 (B1); and a more extreme climate projected for 2070 (A1FI). For warmer and drier climates, model simulations predicted (i) an increase in fire incidence; (ii) larger areas burned; (iii) higher mean fire intensities; (iv) shorter fire cycle lengths; (v) a greater proportion of fires burning earlier in the fire season; (vi) a reduction in carbon stores; (vii) a reduction in carbon sequestration rates; and (viii) an increase in the proportion of stored carbon emitted to the atmosphere. Prescribed burning at historical or twice historical levels had no effect on fire or carbon dynamics. In contrast, increasing the initial attack success (a surrogate for suppression) partially offset the adverse effects of warmer and drier climates on fire activity, but not on carbon dynamics. For the south-eastern Australian high country, simulations indicated that fire and carbon dynamics are sensitive to climate change, with simulated fire management only being able to partially offset the adverse effects of warmer and drier climate.

Additional keywords: carbon accounting, carbon emissions, carbon sequestration, fire area, fire incidence, prescribed fire, simulation, suppression.


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