Brave new green world - Consequences of a carbon economy for the conservation of Australian biodiversity


Corey J. A Bradshaw, University of Adelaide
David M. J. S Bowman, University of Tasmania
Nick R. Bond, Griffith University
Brett P. Murphy, University of MelbourneFollow
Andrew D. Moore, CSIROSustainable Agriculture National Research Flagship & Plant Industry
Damien A. Fordham, University of Adelaide
Richard Thackway, University of Queensland
Michael J. Lawes, Charles Darwin University
Hamish Mccallum, Griffith University
Stephen D. Gregory, University of Adelaide
Ram C. Dalal, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts
Mathias M. Boer, University of Western Sydney
A. Jasmyn J. Lynch, University of CanberraFollow
Ross A. Bradstock, University of WollongongFollow
Barry W. Brook, University of Adelaide
Beverley K. Henry, Queensland University of Technology
Leigh P. Hunter, CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture National Research Flagship
Diana O. Fisher, University of Queensland
David Hunter, NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water
Christopher N. Johnson, University of Tasmania
David A. Keith, NSW Department of Environment & Climate Change
Edward C. Lefroy, University of Tasmania
Trent D. Penman, University of WollongongFollow
Wayne S. Meyer, University of Adelaide
James R. Thomson, Monash University
Craig M. Thornton, Natural Resources and Mines, Qld
Jeremy Vanderwal, James Cook University
Richard J. Williams, CSIRO Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre
Lucy Keniger, University of Queensland
Alison Specht, University of Queensland



Publication Details

Bradshaw, C. J. A., Bowman, D. M. J. S., Bond, N. R., Murphy, B. P., Moore, A. D., Fordham, D. A., Thackway, R., Lawes, M. J., Mccallum, H., Gregory, S. D., Dalal, R. C., Boer, M. M., Lynch, A. J., Bradstock, R. A., Brook, B. W., Henry, B. K., Hunter, L. P., Fisher, D. O., Hunter, D., Johnson, C. N., Keith, D. A., Lefroy, E. C., Penman, T. D., Meyer, W. S., Thomson, J. R., Thornton, C. M., Vanderwal, J., Williams, R. J., Keniger, L. & Specht, A. (2013). Brave new green world - Consequences of a carbon economy for the conservation of Australian biodiversity. Biological Conservation, 161 71-90.


Pricing greenhouse gas emissions is a burgeoning and possibly lucrative financial means for climate change mitigation. Emissions pricing is being used to fund emissions-abatement technologies and to modify land management to improve carbon sequestration and retention. Here we discuss the principal land-management options under existing and realistic future emissions-price legislation in Australia, and examine them with respect to their anticipated direct and indirect effects on biodiversity. The main ways in which emissions price-driven changes to land management can affect biodiversity are through policies and practices for (1) environmental plantings for carbon sequestration, (2) native regrowth, (3) fire management, (4) forestry, (5) agricultural practices (including cropping and grazing), and (6) feral animal control. While most land-management options available to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions offer clear advantages to increase the viability of native biodiversity, we describe several caveats regarding potentially negative outcomes, and outline components that need to be considered if biodiversity is also to benefit from the new carbon economy. Carbon plantings will only have real biodiversity value if they comprise appropriate native tree species and provide suitable habitats and resources for valued fauna. Such plantings also risk severely altering local hydrology and reducing water availability. Management of regrowth post-agricultural abandonment requires setting appropriate baselines and allowing for thinning in certain circumstances, and improvements to forestry rotation lengths would likely increase carbon-retention capacity and biodiversity value. Prescribed burning to reduce the frequency of high-intensity wildfires in northern Australia is being used as a tool to increase carbon retention. Fire management in southern Australia is not readily amenable for maximising carbon storage potential, but will become increasingly important for biodiversity conservation as the climate warms. Carbon price-based modifications to agriculture that would benefit biodiversity include reductions in tillage frequency and livestock densities, reductions in fertiliser use, and retention and regeneration of native shrubs; however, anticipated shifts to exotic perennial grass species such as buffel grass and kikuyu could have net negative implications for native biodiversity. Finally, it is unlikely that major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions arising from feral animal control are possible, even though reduced densities of feral herbivores will benefit Australian biodiversity greatly.

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