Issue 31, January - June 2005

Study targets bushfire impacts

The Tropical Savannas CRC has secured $400,000 from the Australian Greenhouse Office to study the greenhouse gas impact of north Australia’s bushfires. The study will under­pin innovative ways of red­ucing tropical Australia’s greenhouse emissions.

It might come as a surprise to many, but the greatest contribution to northern Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from bush­fires—which are estimated to release the greenhouse equivalent of over 6 million tonnes of CO 2 each year in the Northern Territory alone.

These fires can be monsters: in a couple of hot and windy weeks in October last year a blaze in the NT burnt out almost 60,000 square km, almost three-quarters the area of Tasmania, making it one of Aust­ralia’s largest recorded bushfires.

The leader of the study, consultant fire ecologist Dr. Jeremy Russell-Smith, said we should now be able to limit these vast, late dry season wildfires, significantly reducing green­house emissions.

“There is a rapidly improving capacity to control fires in northern Australia with Aboriginal commun­ities and ranger groups, pastoralists and fire control officers,” he said.

“These groups are now cooperat­ing and having access to better information and so we hope that these huge fires will soon be a thing of the past,” he said.

The study aims to pin down the impact that this improved fire manage­ment will have on the northern savannas’ greenhouse gas emissions.

It will draw on the latest satellite images and analysis techniques to obtain more reliable estimates of how much greenhouse gas is emitted by bush­fires. The study will use the expertise of the WA Department of Land Inform­ation, CSIRO and the Bushfires Council of the NT and work in collaboration with pastoralists and rangers from the Northern Land Council.


Dr Jeremy Russell-Smith
Fire Management Consultant
Tel: 08 8922 0830

Fax: 08 8922 0833

PO Box 37346