Australian Outback a Significant "Carbon Bank" – Study
15 July 2010 at 10:40 am
A new study commissioned by The Nature Conservancy and the Pew Environment Group found that Australia’s vast Outback stores 9.7 billion tons of carbon, and if better managed, the area could store even greater levels that would help the country meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The study, “Outback Carbon – An Assessment of Carbon Storage, Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Remote Australia,” found that if steps are taken now to protect and manage the Outback’s natural environment, the area could absorb up to an additional 1.3 billion tons of carbon by 2050—the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road every year for the next four decades.
Approximately 80 percent or 6 million square kilometres of Australia’s Outback was examined in the study. The Outback is comprised of forests, woodlands and grasslands stretching across central and northern Australia.
Dr. Barry Traill, director of the Wild Australia Program, a joint project of the Pew Environment Group and The Nature Conservancy that works to protect large tracts of Australia’s terrestrial and marine environment says that due to its enormous size, the Outback environment is able to store huge amounts of carbon, so it serves as a massive pollution bank for Australia and the planet.
However, Dr.Traill says if the wide variety of its plants and trees continue to be cleared or degraded through poor management, stored carbon will be released into the atmosphere, adding to climate pollution.
The study found that reducing land clearing, promoting re-growth of native vegetation, managing wildfires, controlling feral animal populations and improving management of animal grazing can significantly increase the Outback’s carbon storage levels and could cut the country’s greenhouse emissions by 5 per cent by 2030.
The research says that several of these practices—reducing land clearing, managing wildfires and controlling feral animals—cost less than an estimated AU $20 per ton of carbon, which is significantly lower than other types of carbon reduction methods such as underground carbon storage.
Dr. Michael Looker of The Nature Conservancy in Australia says this new and important report shows that by taking better care of Australia’s Outback, its native plants, woodlands and forests, Australia has a logical and inexpensive way to cut emissions right in its own backyard.
He says to make the cuts in damaging greenhouse emissions that the science says are necessary to limit the impacts of climate change, Australia must take advantage of these practical solutions that are cost effective and available now.
Wild Australia is a joint project of the Pew Environment Group and The Nature Conservancy that works to protect large tracts of Australia’s unique terrestrial and marine environment. www.WildAustralia.org
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working internationally to protect ecologically important lands and waters. It has more than one million members and has been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and more than 8.9 million acres in Australia.
The Conservancy has helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. www.nature.org
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, an NGO that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. www.pewenvironment.org