The CSIRO says improved fire management practices across northern Australia have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than half a million tonnes over the past year.
Savanna burning was introduced as a methodology under the Federal Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative, to reduce the frequency of large, late dry season fires in the north.
CSIRO researcher, Dr Garry Cook, says although emission reduction is the primary goal, many other benefits are also flowing from the methodology.
“To me the main value is that it’s providing important resources to manage fire in a landscape where the population is very sparse, and where there’s limited resources for land management,” he said.
“In the scheme of national emissions, savanna fires contribute about three to four per cent of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
“So if we can reduce that by also getting better land management, supporting employment and improving fire management for biodiversity reasons across the north, it’s a very good outcome.”
Dr Cook says given the success of the program in its first year, researchers are now working on extending the methodology to include drier parts of northern Australia.
“The methodology applies currently to areas that get more than 1,000 millimetres rainfall,” he said.
“About 20 per cent of Australia’s land in that area is being managed using this approach in its first year of operation.
“To me, that’s a terrific outcome, and I think there’s potential for many more land landholders to take it up.
“We’re working with partners at Charles Darwin University and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance to extend the approach down to 600 millimetres rainfall.
“[That] could open-up more opportunities for people who have land in drier areas to participate in this.”
Uncertainty surrounding future carbon credit pricing has not deterred some Northern Territory land managers, who remain committed to improving fire practices on their properties.
Dr Cook says while the long-term economic benefits remain unclear, he’s confident the savanna burning methodology will continue to play an important role across the north.
“There’s some uncertainty in the policy arena on this, but we’re working closely with the responsible people in Canberra in developing these methodologies,” he said.
“We’re confident that it will remain as a very viable land management option across northern Australia.”
Dr Cook will present his research at the Ecological Society of Australia Conference in Alice Springs today.
Read this article at The ABC.