Miko U.F. Kirschbaum (1996) The Carbon Sequestration Potential of Tree Plantations in Australia In: "Environmental Management: the Role of Eucalypts and Other Fast Growing Species" (K.G. Eldridge, M.P. Crowe and K.M. Old, eds.), CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, Canberra, pp. 77-89.

Abstract. Different approaches have been proposed to reduce net emissions of Greenhouse gases. One option investigated here is the establishment of forest plantations in Australia for the purpose of sequestering carbon. It is apparent from previous work that within Australia, sufficient land is suitable and available for plantations to create a significant biological sink for CO2. However, it has not yet been established at what cost per unit carbon such sequestration is possible, and, consequently, whether it would be economically feasible, or whether other approaches can lead to greater net benefits at lower cost. At any specific site, this requires good quantification of costs of plantation establishment and management, tree growth rates, financial returns from the sale of logs and total site carbon storage potential, including the soil. Growth rates vary more than ten-fold across different sites with climatic conditions, species, soil fertility and other soil factors, and are difficult to extrapolate widely from individual point data. An economic analysis indicates that with inclusion of financial returns from the sale of wood, carbon sequestration costs per ton of carbon can be very low in some circumstances. Costs increase with land and plantation establishment costs, but decrease with tree growth rate and the commercial value of any wood that can be harvested. It is likely that for some combinations of these variables, tree plantations could make a cost-effective contribution to short-term sequestration of carbon. However, on-site carbon storage would be sharply reduced upon harvest of the forest at the end of the rotation. Alternatively, if forests are left undisturbed, the carbon may be retained on site, but the potential of individual sites for further carbon sequestration will gradually diminish. Hence, carbon sequestration in tree plantations could make only a short-term and transitory contribution to mitigating net Greenhouse gas emissions. Wood could make an on-going contribution to reducing net CO2 emissions if it could replace fossil fuels in energy production.

[Miko Kirschbaum’s home page] [Back to Climate Change Studies]