Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

A regional interpretation of rules and good practice for greenhouse accounting: northern Australian savanna systems

Beverley Henry A B E , Chris Mitchell A , Annette Cowie A C , Oliver Woldring D and John Carter A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting, GPO Box 475, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, 80 Meiers Road, Indooroopilly, Qld 4068, Australia.

C New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia.

D New South Wales Greenhouse Office, GPO Box 5341, Sydney, NSW 2001, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 53(7) 589-605
Submitted: 13 December 2004  Accepted: 4 October 2005   Published: 29 November 2005


Land-use change, particularly clearing of forests for agriculture, has contributed significantly to the observed rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Concern about the impacts on climate has led to efforts to monitor and curtail the rapid increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Internationally, much of the current focus is on the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Although electing to not ratify the Protocol, Australia, as a party to the UNFCCC, reports on national greenhouse gas emissions, trends in emissions and abatement measures. In this paper we review the complex accounting rules for human activities affecting greenhouse gas fluxes in the terrestrial biosphere and explore implications and potential opportunities for managing carbon in the savanna ecosystems of northern Australia. Savannas in Australia are managed for grazing as well as for cultural and environmental values against a background of extreme climate variability and disturbance, notably fire. Methane from livestock and non-CO2 emissions from burning are important components of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with management of savannas. International developments in carbon accounting for the terrestrial biosphere bring a requirement for better attribution of change in carbon stocks and more detailed and spatially explicit data on such characteristics of savanna ecosystems as fire regimes, production and type of fuel for burning, drivers of woody encroachment, rates of woody regrowth, stocking rates and grazing impacts. The benefits of improved biophysical information and of understanding the impacts on ecosystem function of natural factors and management options will extend beyond greenhouse accounting to better land management for multiple objectives.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting and the Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Savannas. We also thank Stephen Roxburgh for producing Fig. 1 and Dick Williams, Bruce Wright and John Henry for critical review of the paper. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not represent a policy position of the Governments of Queensland or New South Wales, or of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.


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1 For ‘net–net accounting’ the carbon sink or source is calculated as the carbon sink or source in the reporting year, minus the carbon sink or source in the base year (IPCC 2004).

2 Decision 13/CP.9. Para 2. Decides that parties included in Annex 1 of the Convention (Annex 1 Parties) should use the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change good practice guidance for land use land-use change and forestry for preparing annual inventories under the Convention, due in 2005 and beyond with an exception of any guidance relating to the preparation and reporting of greenhouse gas inventories for land use, land-use change and forestry under the Kyoto Protocol until further consideration and a decision on this matter by the conference by parties at its tenth session. Para 3. Decides to use for a trial period covering inventory submissions due in 2005, the tables for the common reporting format for the land use, land-use change and forestry categories contained in Annex 1 to this decision and a table contained in Annex III to this decision, with the aim of making them part of the ‘Guidelines for the preparation of national communications by parties included in Annex I to the Convention, Part I: UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories’ (hereinafter referred to as the UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories) adopted by decision 18/CP.8.

3 If a pool can be shown not to be a net source of greenhouse gases it can be excluded from accounting.

4 Decision 13/CP.9—see Footnote 2.

5 AS4978.1 is currently being revised in light of international developments.

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