Returning native animals and CCS – forest restoration essentials

Early this week, NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker announced three large feral predator exclosures, 4,000 hectares each, will be constructed in National Parks in western NSW. Better late than never, up to eight locally extinct species, including the bilby, numbat, and bridled nail-tail wallaby will be released into the areas.

According to the Daily Telegraph – Ms Parker blamed the State’s extinction record on “a failure of leadership”.

Also this week, the Climate Institute, closely affiliated with the conservation movement, released a report titled ‘Moving Below Zero – Understanding bioenergy with carbon capture and storage’. Based on modelling undertaken by Jacobs SKM, the report concludes ‘that bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, or bio-CCS using food wastes, sustainable forest biomass, or crop residues, has the potential to contribute significantly to climate change efforts in Australia put its support behind, carbon capture and storage’.

While it’s arguable that this belated support for CCS also reflects past failures of leadership, implementing both requires changes to current management practices, especially pointless fuel reduction burning.

Burning ground cover enhances the ability of foxes and cats to catch prey, and is counterproductive if reducing emissions and CCS is the goal. The bar chart below shows carbon stocks (min, mean and max) in coastal forests, as measured during research undertaken near Kioloa on the south coast.

kioloa forest carbonThe mean volume of carbon in fine litter, timber on the forest floor and standing dead trees, is 62.6 tonnes per hectare. If all areas burned in National Parks carried this volume of biomass, and it was all consumed by burning, the area burned during 2012-2013 (206,000 ha), would produce 12,895,600 tonnes of CO2.

Put in perspective, the average Australian produces 18.2 tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel use per annum. If CO2 emanating from fuel reduction burns were accounted for, the average NPWS employee is producing nearly 120 times average fossil fuel use.

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