Science counts carbon cost of Red Centre fires

Science counts carbon cost of Red Centre fires   

07 October 2011

published by

Australia — An abnormal amount of carbon is being released into the atmosphere from wildfires raging across Central Australia.

Bushfires NT estimates about 20 per cent of Northern Territory pasture land south of Tennant Creek has been lost to the fires so far this year.

Dr Ashley Sparrow from the CSIRO laboratory in Alice Springs says it is an example of the boom-and-bust ecosystem in the Red Centre at work.

He says spectacular wet years are always followed by a growth spurt of grasses and scrubs, then a significant bushfire season and the release of massive quantities of carbon dioxide.

“Almost all of that carbon would go back into the atmosphere, regardless of whether we had a bushfire or not,” he said.

“At the moment, it is going back into the atmosphere very rapidly as a bushfire.

“But even if it was eaten by a cow, or a camel or a kangaroo, digestion would convert that biomass back into carbon dioxide and it would end up in the atmosphere through respiration.”

Dr Sparrow says it is too soon to know whether or not excessive carbon emissions from the current wildfires will have a long-term impact.

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