Can Carbon Sequestration in Tasmanian "wet" Eucalypt Forests Be Used to Mitigate Climate Change? Forest Succession, the Buffering Effects of Soils, and Landscape Processes Must Be Taken into Account

Peter D. McIntosh, James L. Hardcastle, Tobias Klöffel, Martin Moroni, Talitha C. Santini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Small areas of the wetter parts of southeast Australia including Tasmania support high-biomass "wet"eucalypt forests, including "mixed"forests consisting of mature eucalypts up to 100 m high with a rainforest understorey. In Tasmania, mixed forests transition to lower biomass rainforests over time. In the scientific and public debate on ways to mitigate climate change, these forests have received attention for their ability to store large amounts of carbon (C), but the contribution of soil C stocks to the total C in these two ecosystems has not been systematically researched, and consequently, the potential of wet eucalypt forests to serve as long-term C sinks is uncertain. This study compared soil C stocks to 1 m depth at paired sites under rainforest and mixed forests and found that there was no detectable difference of mean total soil C between the two forest types, and on average, both contained about 200 Mg·ha-1 of C. Some C in subsoil under rainforests is 3000 years old and retains a chemical signature of pyrogenic C, detectable in NMR spectra, indicating that soil C stocks are buffered against the effects of forest succession. The mean loss of C in biomass as mixed forests transition to rainforests is estimated to be about 260 Mg·ha-1 over a c. 400-year period, so the mature mixed forest ecosystem emits about 0.65 Mg·ha-1·yr-1 of C during its transition to rainforest. For this reason and because of the risk of forest fires, setting aside large areas of wet eucalypt forests as reserves in order to increase landscape C storage is not a sound strategy for long-term climate change mitigation. Maintaining a mosaic of managed native forests, including regenerating eucalypts, mixed forests, rainforests, and reserves, is likely to be the best strategy for maintaining landscape C stocks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6509659
JournalInternational Journal of Forestry Research
Volume2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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