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Impacts of an extreme cyclone event on landscape-scale savanna fire, productivity and greenhouse gas emissions

Hutley, Lindsay B., Evans, B. J., Beringer, Jason, Cook, Garry D., Maier, Stefan W. and Razon, E. (2013). Impacts of an extreme cyclone event on landscape-scale savanna fire, productivity and greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Research Letters,8:045023-1-045023-12.

Document type: Journal Article
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IRMA ID 82057923xPUB525
Title Impacts of an extreme cyclone event on landscape-scale savanna fire, productivity and greenhouse gas emissions
Author Hutley, Lindsay B.
Evans, B. J.
Beringer, Jason
Cook, Garry D.
Maier, Stefan W.
Razon, E.
Journal Name Environmental Research Letters
Publication Date 2013
Volume Number 8
ISSN 1748-9326   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-84891936661
Start Page 045023-1
End Page 045023-12
Total Pages 12
Place of Publication United Kingdom
Publisher Institute of Physics Publishing (IOP Publishing)
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract North Australian tropical savanna accounts for 12% of the world's total savanna land cover. Accordingly, understanding processes that govern carbon, water and energy exchange within this biome is critical to global carbon and water budgeting. Climate and disturbances drive ecosystem carbon dynamics. Savanna ecosystems of the coastal and sub-coastal of north Australia experience a unique combination of climatic extremes and are in a state of near constant disturbance from fire events (1 in 3 years), storms resulting in windthrow (1 in 5–10 years) and mega-cyclones (1 in 500–1000 years). Critically, these disturbances occur over large areas creating a spatial and temporal mosaic of carbon sources and sinks. We quantify the impact on gross primary productivity (GPP) and fire occurrence from a tropical mega-cyclone, tropical Cyclone Monica (TC Monica), which affected 10 400 km2 of savanna across north Australia, resulting in the mortality and severe structural damage to ~140 million trees. We estimate a net carbon equivalent emission of 43 Tg of CO2-e using the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) GPP (MOD17A2) to quantify spatial and temporal patterns pre- and post-TC Monica. GPP was suppressed for four years after the event, equivalent to a loss of GPP of 0.5 Tg C over this period. On-ground fuel loads were estimated to potentially release 51.2 Mt CO2-e, equivalent to ~10% of Australia's accountable greenhouse gas emissions. We present a simple carbon balance to examine the relative importance of frequency versus impact for a number of key disturbance processes such as fire, termite consumption and intense but infrequent mega-cyclones. Our estimates suggested that fire and termite consumption had a larger impact on Net Biome Productivity than infrequent mega-cyclones. We demonstrate the importance of understanding how climate variability and disturbance impacts savanna dynamics in the context of the increasing interest in using savanna landscapes for enhanced carbon sinks in emission offset schemes.

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Additional Notes This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Description for Link Link to CC Attribution 3.0 License

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