Climate Change: Science and Solutions for Australia
Chapter 8: Greenhouse gas mitigation: sources and sinks in agriculture and forestry By Dr Michael Battaglia
Agriculture and forestry can make a valuable contribution to lowering Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by reducing their own direct emissions and by increasing the amount of carbon stored in soils and landscapes.
Our soils and forests store large quantities of carbon: somewhere between 100 and 200 times Australia’s current annual emissions. We can potentially increase these stores in our rural lands and perhaps store or mitigate enough greenhouse gases to off set up to 20 per cent or more of Australia’s emissions during the next 40 years.
Forest plantings are the most straightforward way to sequester carbon in rural landscapes and, along with reduced land clearing, provide the most immediate, significant, and realisable carbon sequestration opportunity.
Nearly a third of Australia’s terrestrial carbon is stored in tropical savannas: the continent’s most fire-prone biome in which half or more of the land may burn each year. These fires currently contribute 2–3 per cent of the nation’s total accountable emissions and have an important bearing on rates of carbon sequestration.
Ruminant animals (such as sheep and cattle) emit methane as a by-product of digesting feed. In 2008, this contributed 9.6 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions and was the largest component of agricultural emissions.
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