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Green Carbon Part 1

Green Carbon Part 1: The role of natural forests in carbon storage

Brendan G. Mackey
Heather Keith
Sandra L. Berry
David B. Lindenmayer
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Green Carbon Part 1
    Book Description:

    The colour of carbon matters. Green carbon is the carbon stored in the plants and soil of natural ecosystems and is a vital part of the global carbon cycle. This report is the first in a series that examines the role of natural forests in the storage of carbon, the impacts of human land use activities, and the implications for climate change policy nationally and internationally. REDD (“reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation”) is now part of the agenda for the “Bali Action Plan” being debated in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009. Currently, international rules are blind to the colour of carbon so that the green carbon in natural forests is not recognised, resulting in perverse outcomes including ongoing deforestation and forest degradation, and the conversion of extensive areas of land to industrial plantations. This report examines REDD policy from a green carbon scientific perspective. Subsequent reports will focus on issues concerning the carbon sequestration potential of commercially logged natural forests, methods for monitoring REDD, and the long term implications of forest policy and management for the global carbon cycle and climate change.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-88-2
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-3)
    (pp. 5-8)
    (pp. 9-10)

    Natural forests play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Biomass and soil store approximately three times the amount of carbon that is currently found in the atmosphere, and the annual exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and natural forests is 10 times more than the annual global carbon emissions from humans burning fossil fuels. Despite natural forests storing such significant amounts of carbon, to date there has been scant consideration given by policymakers to the role of forests in addressing the climate change problem. At the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali (UNFCCC CoP 13), however,...

    (pp. 11-18)

    It is useful to consider the ‘colour’ of carbon when considering the role of natural forests in the global carbon cycle.

    Grey carbon(3) is the carbon stored in fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas deposits in the lithosphere).

    Green carbon is the carbon stored in the biosphere. We call it ‘green’ because carbon is taken up from the atmosphere by plants through the process of photosynthesis, which is dependent on the green chlorophyll pigment found in plant leaves(4). Here, we use the term green carbon to refer to the carbon sequestered through photosynthesis and stored in natural forests. Natural forests...

    (pp. 19-20)

    In recognizing the importance of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), the international community is now exploring appropriate mechanisms that will provide the financial investments needed to protect natural forests and keep them intact. Irrespective of the mechanism, it will be essential to have reliable estimates of baseline carbon accounts against which changes in carbon stocks can be gauged. Two kinds of baselines are needed: 1) the current stock of carbon stored in forests; and 2) the natural carbon carrying capacity of a forest (the amount of carbon that can be stored in a forest in the absence...

    (pp. 21-28)

    The location of the study region is shown in Figure 2. Our approach draws on existing methods plus some innovations necessary to deal with various problems that arise, including: a) stand ages are often unknown and stands are commonly multi-aged; b) disturbance and land-use history might be unknown; c) forests that have remained undisturbed by human land-use activity usually occur in rugged topography; and d) little information exists about the growth curves over time of many tree species. Analyses drew on a range of inputs: remote sensing data, spatially explicit environmental variables and site data that sampled carbon pools.


    (pp. 29-31)

    One way to understand the significance of our estimates of the carbon carrying capacity of the natural forests of south-eastern Australia is to compare them with values estimated from other sources. Two widely used sources of forest carbon data are the default values published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and estimates derived from the Australian Government’s National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS).

    The IPCC recommends default values for estimating green carbon stocks in the absence of local data (Watson et al. 2001). Mean carbon stock and flux values are provided for the world’s major biomes(12), as detailed in...

    (pp. 33-38)

    We noted in the introduction that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified the need for forest-based mitigation analyses that account for natural variability in forest conditions, use primary forest structure and composition data and provide reliable baseline carbon accounts (Nabuurs et al. 2007). The approach we document in this study provides the means to generate such reliable baseline green carbon accounts for natural forests.

    Once estimates of the carbon carrying capacity for a landscape have been derived, it is possible to calculate a forest’s future carbon sequestration potential. This is the difference between a landscape’s current carbon...

    (pp. 39-40)
    (pp. 41-41)
    (pp. 43-47)