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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 23(6)

Fuel reduction burning mitigates wildfire effects on forest carbon and greenhouse gas emission

Liubov Volkova A B E, C. P. (Mick) Meyer B C, Simon Murphy D, Thomas Fairman D, Fabienne Reisen B C and Christopher Weston A B

A Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne, 4 Water Street, Creswick, Vic. 3363, Australia.
B Bushfire CRC, Level 5, 340 Albert Street, East Melbourne, Vic. 3002, Australia.
C CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, PMB 1, Aspendale, Vic. 3195, Australia.
D Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne, 500 Yarra Boulevard, Richmond, Vic. 3121, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: lubav@unimelb.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(6) 771-780 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF14009
Submitted: 20 January 2014  Accepted: 9 April 2014   Published: 27 June 2014

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A high-intensity wildfire burnt through a dry Eucalyptus forest in south-eastern Australia that had been fuel reduced with fire 3 months prior, presenting a unique opportunity to measure the effects of fuel reduction (FR) on forest carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from wildfires at the start of the fuel accumulation cycle. Less than 3% of total forest carbon to 30-cm soil depth was transferred to the atmosphere in FR burning; the subsequent wildfire transferred a further 6% to the atmosphere. There was a 9% loss in carbon for the FR–wildfire sequence. In nearby forest, last burnt 25 years previously, the wildfire burning transferred 16% of forest carbon to the atmosphere and was characterised by more complete combustion of all fuels and less surface charcoal deposition, compared with fuel-reduced forest. Compared to the fuel-reduced forests, release of non-CO2 GHG doubled following wildfire in long-unburnt forest. Although this is the maximum emission mitigation likely within a planned burning cycle, it suggests a significant potential for FR burns to mitigate GHG emissions in forests at high risk from wildfires.

Additional keywords: biomass, charcoal, emission factors, greenhouse gases, modified combustion efficiency.


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