Production of pyrogenic carbon during planned fires in forests of East Gippsland, Victoria
Management strategies such as planned burning for fuel reduction can help mitigate the effects of wildfires. The amount of biomass consumed is of interest to fire managers as reduction of fuel loads is imperative to reducing the risk and extent of a wildfire event. Biomass regeneration is also of importance for ecosystem recovery and resilience. Pyrogenic carbon (PyC), a product of combustion during both planned and unplanned fires, plays a key role in global carbon stores and balances. A three-year study of planned burning practices examined fires in Lowland temperate Eucalypt forest of south eastern Australia. We collected data on overstorey, understorey, coarse woody debris, fine litter, PyC and soil across nine sites to determine biomass consumption, PyC production and changes in ecosystem carbon during planned burning. Lowland forest showed significant recovery of combustible biomass (fine litter and understorey) one year after planned fire. Across our sites, PyC was produced at a rate of approximately 5% of the biomass consumed. The PyC produced is destined to become part of soil and litter carbon and contributes to long-term carbon storage. Planned burning had a short-term (<1 >year) impact on forest carbon balance, and on reduction risk of wildfire and associated losses of biomass carbon, but no long-term impact, through deposition of PyC and recovery of biomass.