The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
The Rangeland Journal

The Rangeland Journal

Volume 36 Number 4 2014

Savanna Burning: Role and Opportunities in a Rangelands Carbon Economy

RJv36n4_FOSavanna burning: role and opportunities in a rangelands carbon economy

Tom Davison
pp. i-i

Fire is a substantial source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the land sector throughout the world. A carbon economy potentially provides a new opportunity for land managers to diversify their livelihoods by adopting fire management practices that reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon sequestration. The papers in this Special Issue present technical, policy and stakeholder perspectives for achieving better conservation, emissions and economic outcomes from improved burning practices in northern Australia.


Can fire be used to manage the increasing woody cover in grazed savannas in northern Australia? This 20-year study found that 4-yearly late dry season fires provided the most effective management of woody cover and pasture composition, while more frequent or early fires caused an undesirable change in pasture composition. This is contrary to recommendations for early dry season fires for biodiversity conservation and greenhouse emissions reduction, and suggests optimal fire management will vary with land use and prevailing fire regimes.


Australia’s rangelands may offer considerable potential as a carbon sink that could help manage atmospheric carbon levels, but few data are available to assess this potential or to inform the type of fire and grazing management that would be necessary. Simulation modelling suggested that reducing fire frequency in grazed northern Australian savannas increased carbon stocks mainly through a build-up of woody vegetation, although this trend was not apparent in a field study of experimental fire regimes. Further studies are required to better understand the carbon sequestration potential of the rangelands.

RJ14044Impacts of fire on soil organic carbon stocks in a grazed semi-arid tropical Australian savanna: accounting for landscape variability

D. E. Allen, P. M. Bloesch, R. A. Cowley, T. G. Orton, J. E. Payne and R. C. Dalal
pp. 359-369

Fire and grazing in Australian tropical savannas is commonplace, yet their management on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks is not well understood. SOC stocks were measured at a long term fire experimental site in a grazed tropical savanna, accounting for background spatial variability and treatment replication (in the absence of baseline values). The lack of significant treatment differences illustrates the importance of accounting for these factors when developing accurate and cost-effective methodologies for land managers in the C economy.


We examine fire patterns and associated greenhouse gas emissions in north Australian savannas over a period of 15 years. We seek to identify the geographic area over which it may be plausible, under Australian carbon farming law, to extend options to earn carbon credits by reducing fire-generated emissions. We conclude that significant abatement may be achieved using approved methods in areas receiving above 600 mm rainfall annually but also showing extreme rainfall seasonality, evidenced by rainfall of less than 15 mm in the driest quarter.

RJ13128Carbon projects and Indigenous land in northern Australia

Jeremy Dore, Christine Michael, Jeremy Russell-Smith, Maureen Tehan and Lisa Caripis
pp. 389-402

The world’s first national land carbon offsets scheme, Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative, offers great potential for Indigenous landowners to boost income from the land. However, meeting land requirements means navigating a maze of state and federal legislation. This paper provides a snapshot of the pathways open for Indigenous landowners in northern Australia, and points out problems which might stand in the way of successful projects.


This paper explores the potential for pastoral properties to diversify income through participation in carbon markets through early dry season savanna-burning projects. An examination of the experiences of the Indigenous Land Corporation and the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory of Australia exposes the benefits of carbon projects and the need to undertake further research into the practicalities of introducing carbon projects into predominantly pastoral landscapes.

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