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Contemporary fire regime risks to key ecological assets and processes in north Australian savannas

Edwards, Andrew C., Russell-Smith, Jeremy and Meyer, Mick (2015). Contemporary fire regime risks to key ecological assets and processes in north Australian savannas. International Journal of Wildland Fire,24(6):857-870.

Document type: Journal Article
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IRMA ID 81144320xPUB76
Title Contemporary fire regime risks to key ecological assets and processes in north Australian savannas
Author Edwards, Andrew C.
Russell-Smith, Jeremy
Meyer, Mick
Journal Name International Journal of Wildland Fire
Publication Date 2015
Volume Number 24
Issue Number 6
ISSN 1049-8001   (check CDU catalogue  open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-84940545513
Start Page 857
End Page 870
Total Pages 14
Place of Publication Australia
Publisher C S I R O Publishing
Field of Research ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract Despite the intact appearance of relatively unmodified north Australian savannas, mounting evidence indicates that contemporary fire regimes characterised by frequent, extensive and severe late dry season wildfires are having deleterious effects on a range of regional water, soil erosion, biodiversity conservation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions values. For the high rainfall (>1000 mm year–1) savannas (426 000 km2), we assessed the spatial effects of contemporary fire regimes within the context of ecosystem response models and three plausible alternative fire management scenarios on ecosystem attributes. Over the 2008–12 assessment period, mean annual fire frequency (0.53) comprised mostly late dry season fires. Although spatially variable, contemporary fire regimes resulted in substantial GHG emissions, hill slope erosion and suspended sediment transport, a slight decline in carbon biomass and slight positive effects on fire-vulnerable vegetation. Based on available climate change models and strategic fire management practice, we show that, relative to business-as-usual, improved fire management involving strategic prescribed burning results in substantial benefits to most ecosystem attributes, including under enhanced climate change conditions, whereas in the absence of improved fire management, climate change results in substantially worse outcomes.
Keywords carbon sequestration
ecosystem services
greenhouse gas emissions
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF14197   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)
 
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