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Carbon balance of a eucalypt open forest savanna of Northern Australia

Chen, Xiaoyong (2002). Carbon balance of a eucalypt open forest savanna of Northern Australia. PhD Thesis, Northern Territory University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Chen, Xiaoyong
Title Carbon balance of a eucalypt open forest savanna of Northern Australia
Institution Northern Territory University
Publication Date 2002
Thesis Type PhD
Subjects 0599 - Other Environmental Sciences
0607 - Plant Biology
Abstract Tropical savannas, a vegetation system comprising both trees and grasses in varying proportions, cover more than 10% of the global land surface and are a significant biome. These plant communities are largely distributed in the developing world and are subjected to high levels of population and development pressure. Australian tropical savannas are not subjected to such land use pressures, although this is slowly changing. They are and extensive ecosystem, occupying approximately 25% of the continent in the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia, a region that is subjected to a strongly seasonal, monsoonal climate. Over their entire range in northern Australia, these ecosystems receive annual rainfalls between 500 mm to 1900 mm. Given their extensive distribution, it is likely that tropical savannas contribute significantly to the continental-scale carbon balance of Australia.

This thesis investigates the carbon balance of the Eucalyptus miniata/Eucalyptus tetrodonta dominated open-forest savannas, the dominant ecosystem of the tropical savannas above 1200 mm rainfall isohyet in northern Australia. Study sites were located near Darwin (130° 45'E, 12° 30'E), Northern Territory and receive approximately 1600 mm rainfall annually. The study concentrated on the seasonal and annual carbon budget for these savannas, with carbon stocks, sequestration rates and sink strength of this ecosystem examined. Gross Primary Productivity (GPP), Net Primary Productivity (NPP) and Net Ecosystem Productivity (NEP) were estimated. In addition, the potential long-term savanna carbon sink strength, the Net Biome Productivity (NBP) was estimated from NEP values and losses of carbon via non-respiratory pathways, mainly fire.

The total carbon (C) stock of this savanna ecosystem was 202 ±52 t C ha-1, with approximately 80% stored below-ground and 20% above-ground. Soil organic carbon content (SOC) for 0-1 m depth was 151 ± 33 t C ha-1, accounting for about 75% of the total C content of the ecosystem. Standing biomass was 48 ± 18 t C ha-1, 35% of which was found in the root component and 65% in above-ground live tree components.


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