Preparing forest industries for the future - climate change mitigation research

The forestry sector has opportunities to make contributions to the national climate change mitigation effort. This key area of research aimed to develop mitigation techniques and technologies which enhance Australia’s forest sector’s capacity to store greater amounts of carbon. There were 10 projects funded in this group with research totalling $1.4 million.

Research in this area was strongly focused on:

  • identifying and investigating opportunities to reduce emissions and improving the carbon sequestration potential of the industry and
  • determining the social and economic implications of these opportunities.

Research also focused on expanding and strengthening the datasets underpinning the fate of carbon in harvested wood products during use and after disposal.

The 10 projects, outlined in further detail below are:

  • Using permanent forestry plots to understand the possible effects of climate change on Australia’s production forest estate
  • Carbon sequestration rates and biomass production rates from agroforestry in lower rainfall zones (300–650mm) of South Australia
  • Carbon plantations – Extending R&D to best management practices for carbon sequestration, wood production and new investment opportunities on private land in Tasmania
  • Estimating, modelling and management of carbon at the stand and property level for planted forests
  • Potential economic and social implications of a carbon market for production forestry and biodiverse carbon plantings
  • Carbon storage in paper and composite wood products in landfills
  • Pooling of national mallee data for inclusion in NCAT
  • Accounting for carbon in harvested wood products in an emissions trading scheme
  • Quantifying soil carbon stocks and dynamics following afforestation of agricultural lands with Pinus radiata

Using permanent forestry plots to understand the possible effects of climate change on Australia’s production forest estate

Grantee

University of Tasmania

Summary

This project focused on using data for permanent plots located throughout Australian native production forests to develop predictive ecological models of tree growth and forest productivity under current and plausible future climate change scenarios. Through the project, improvements will be made in forestry agencies capacity to:

  • determine changes in the status of Australia’s forested landscapes thereby improving understanding of forests in the national carbon budget
  • predict the response of eucalypts to global environmental change and
  • adapt to local affects of climate change such as reduced growth rates or increased impacts of bushfires.

Carbon sequestration rates and biomass production rates from agroforestry in lower rainfall zones (300–650mm) of South Australia

Grantee

South Australian Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity (now the Department of Environment and Natural Resources).

Summary

Sustainable agroforestry can be used to store atmospheric carbon, deliver economic environmental benefits and provide greater resilience to climate change for our rural communities. The influence of climate change on farm businesses, expected expansion of carbon markets and trends towards more sustainable landuse options suggest that future agricultural landscapes will contain greater diversity of landuses, including dedicated carbon crops. To evaluate the economic and potential expansion of these crops, land managers and governments require clearer information on the carbon sequestration potential of agroforestry.

This project provides estimates of carbon sequestration rates from agroforestry activities in the low to medium rainfall (300–650mm) dry–land agriculture zones of the Southern Murray—Darling Basin region. To improve the quality of the allometric models being used to assess carbon sequestration rates and biomass production rates, 24 individual plants representing 8 different species were destructively sampled with the resultant data added to existing collections. This work resulted in improvements in ability to determine total above–ground biomass and carbon accumulation rates within plantations in the Southern Murray–Darling Basin region.

Carbon plantations – Extending R&D to best management practices for carbon sequestration, wood production and new investment opportunities on private land in Tasmania

Grantee

Private Forests Tasmania

Summary

This project sought to identify and address knowledge gaps within industry, rural landholders and communities relating to carbon trading and/or offsets for agricultural enterprises. This was done to encourage increased investment in commercial plantations, on private farmland, managed to offset carbon emissions and produce wood in the long–term. The project included farmer surveys, greenhouse gas emissions audits and wood modelling for either timber, carbon or both.

The farmer survey revealed that farmers have little understanding of carbon emissions and storage due to lack of information. Greenhouse gas emissions audits were completed on four farms in North East Tasmania. These audits showed only one farm, where plantations captured more greenhouse gases than produced by agriculture, was greenhouse neutral and Kyoto compliant.

Modelling showed carbon sequestration and wood production were not significantly influenced by future climate changes. Where farm land had little or no value, plantations grown solely to capture and store carbon over long periods, are viable when the carbon price is $15 per tonne. Where the land value is accounted, carbon prices need to be between $17 to $123 per tonne for the plantation venture to be profitable. Modelling revealed that carbon trading combined with wood production may be more profitable than carbon trading alone.

Estimating, modelling and management of carbon at the stand and property level for planted forests

Grantee

Private Forests Tasmania

Summary

This project builds on a Farm Forestry Toolbox for forest modelling growth and biomass currently in use Australia wide. Current work enhances the capacity of the existing Toolbox to account for species planted in tropical and sub–tropical Australia, estimate carbon stored above and below ground by trees over time and allow better modelling of management options to be considered at property or estate level.

Potential economic and social implications of a carbon market for production forestry and biodiverse carbon plantings

Grantee

CSIRO

Summary

This project used an estate or regional case study approach to provide a detailed analysis to assess practical opportunities, benefits and risks to the industry from investing in carbon biosequestration activities under carbon markets. Results of the project suggest that although current plantation estates are largely economically viable, their expansion into cleared agricultural land is not economically viable without a carbon price, largely due to the high costs of purchasing land. For companies, with the exception of some high rainfall linear plantings, establishing farm forestry and environmental planting offsets may not be economically viable until carbon prices of up to $11–78 per tonne are obtained. Due to trade–offs between rates of sequestration of carbon and land values, there may be instances where the economic viability is greatest in sites of medium quality or rainfall where sequestration per unit land value is highest.

Carbon storage in paper and composite wood products in landfills

Grantee

Department of Industry and Investment NSW

Summary

This project aimed to determine the extent of decomposition and long term carbon storage in panel and paper products by carrying out landfill excavations and laboratory–scale landfill simulations. This information will be used to build on the currently limited body of information relating to the long–term carbon storage in solid wood products. The project’s results show that far more carbon is released from decomposing paper than panel products in landfills. There is a slight difference of decomposition between landfills in Sydney compared to Cairns, which is attributed to the warmer weather speeding up the decomposition process.

Pooling of national mallee data for inclusion in NCAT

Grantee

The Oil Mallee Association of Australia

Summary

This project aimed to collate and analyse existing information on mallee productivity across Western Australia in order to enable more accurate estimates of carbon sequestration and bioenergy yields across a range of biophysical attributes. This collation of existing data would increase the facilitation of mallee carbon sequestration rates into the National Carbon Accounting Toolbox (NCAT).

Accounting for carbon in harvested wood products in an emissions trading scheme

Grantee

Former A3P (now Australian Forest Products Association)

Summary

This project assessed the amount of carbon stored in wood products at different points in the production cycle, including harvest, processing, use and disposal. Existing methods for carbon accounting in harvested wood products (HWP) were reviewed and evaluated. Two accounting approaches for HWP were trialled for both growers and processors. There was also an analysis of the eligibility to earn carbon credits, surrendering credits and the potential calculation of credits.

Quantifying soil carbon stocks and dynamics following afforestation of agricultural lands with Pinus radiata

Grantee

Department of Industry and Investment NSW

Summary

This project sought to accurately quantify the impacts of afforestation on soil carbon dynamics and nitrogen. Soil carbon stocks and carbon dioxide efflux in paired plantation–agricultural sites are investigated in order to assess the soil carbon sequestration potential of reforestation with pines.

The project works to identify the influence of annual rainfall, soil type, pH and forest age on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks and nitrogen content of afforested pastoral land. The report observed soil carbon and nitrogen contents at multiple paired sites of plantation–pasture in two contrasting climatic zones in the central tablelands of NSW. There preliminary observations suggest a decline in SOC content after afforestation of pasture.