School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences - Research Publications

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    Land use change and the impact on greenhouse gas exchange in north Australian savanna soils
    Grover, SPP ; Livesley, SJ ; Hutley, LB ; Jamali, H ; Fest, B ; Beringer, J ; Butterbach-Bahl, K ; Arndt, SK (COPERNICUS GESELLSCHAFT MBH, 2012-01-01)
    Abstract. Savanna ecosystems are subjected to accelerating land use change as human demand for food and forest products increases. Land use change has been shown to both increase and decrease greenhouse gas fluxes from savannas and considerable uncertainty exists about the non-CO2 fluxes from the soil. We measured methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) over a complete wet-dry seasonal cycle at three replicate sites of each of three land uses: savanna, young pasture and old pasture (converted from savanna 5–7 and 25–30 yr ago, respectively) in the Douglas Daly region of Northern Australia. The effect of break of season rains at the end of the dry season was investigated with two irrigation experiments. Land use change from savanna to pasture increased net greenhouse gas fluxes from the soil. Pasture sites were a weaker sink for CH4 than savanna sites and, under wet conditions, old pastures turned from being sinks to a significant source of CH4. Nitrous oxide emissions were generally very low, in the range of 0 to 5 μg N2O-N m−2 h−1, and under dry conditions soil uptake of N2O was apparent. Break of season rains produced a small, short lived pulse of N2O up to 20 μg N2O-N m−2 h−1, most evident in pasture soil. Annual cumulative soil CO2 fluxes increased after clearing, with savanna (14.6 t CO2-C ha−1 yr−1) having the lowest fluxes compared to old pasture (18.5 t CO2-C ha−1 yr−1) and young pasture (20.0 t CO2-C ha−1 yr−1). Clearing savanna increased soil-based greenhouse gas emissions from 53 to ∼ 70 t CO2-equivalents, a 30% increase dominated by an increase in soil CO2 emissions and shift from soil CH4 sink to source. Seasonal variation was clearly driven by soil water content, supporting the emerging view that soil water content is a more important driver of soil gas fluxes than soil temperature in tropical ecosystems where temperature varies little among seasons.
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    Seasonal variation and fire effects on CH4, N2O and CO2 exchange in savanna soils of northern Australia
    Livesley, SJ ; Grover, S ; Hutley, LB ; Jamali, H ; Butterbach-Bahl, K ; Fest, B ; Beringer, J ; Arndt, SK (ELSEVIER, 2011-11-15)
    Tropical savanna ecosystems are a major contributor to global CO2, CH4 and N2O greenhouse gas exchange. Savanna fire events represent large, discrete C emissions but the importance of ongoing soil-atmosphere gas exchange is less well understood. Seasonal rainfall and fire events are likely to impact upon savanna soil microbial processes involved in N2O and CH4 exchange. We measured soil CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes in savanna woodland (Eucalyptus tetrodonta/Eucalyptus miniata trees above sorghum grass) at Howard Springs, Australia over a 16 month period from October 2007 to January 2009 using manual chambers and a field-based gas chromatograph connected to automated chambers. The effect of fire on soil gas exchange was investigated through two controlled burns and protected unburnt areas. Fire is a frequent natural and management action in these savanna (every 1–2 years). There was no seasonal change and no fire effect upon soil N2O exchange. Soil N2O fluxes were very low, generally between −1.0 and 1.0μg Nm−2h−1, and often below the minimum detection limit. There was an increase in soil NH4+ in the months after the 2008 fire event, but no change in soil NO3−. There was considerable nitrification in the early wet season but minimal nitrification at all other times. Savanna soil was generally a net CH4 sink that equated to between −2.0 and −1.6kg CH4ha−1y−1 with no clear seasonal pattern in response to changing soil moisture conditions. Irrigation in the dry season significantly reduced soil gas diffusion and as a consequence soil CH4 uptake. There were short periods of soil CH4 emission, up to 20μg Cm−2h−1, likely to have been caused by termite activity in, or beneath, automated chambers. Soil CO2 fluxes showed a strong bimodal seasonal pattern, increasing fivefold from the dry into the wet season. Soil moisture showed a weak relationship with soil CH4 fluxes, but a much stronger relationship with soil CO2 fluxes, explaining up to 70% of the variation in unburnt treatments. Australian savanna soils are a small N2O source, and possibly even a sink. Annual soil CH4 flux measurements suggest that the 1.9million km2 of Australian savanna soils may provide a C sink of between −7.7 and −9.4 Tg CO2-e per year. This sink estimate would offset potentially 10% of Australian transport related CO2-e emissions. This CH4 sink estimate does not include concurrent CH4 emissions from termite mounds or ephemeral wetlands in Australian savannas.
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    The relationships between termite mound CH4/CO2 emissions and internal concentration ratios are species specific
    Jamali, H ; Livesley, SJ ; Hutley, LB ; Fest, B ; Arndt, SK (COPERNICUS GESELLSCHAFT MBH, 2013-01-01)
    Abstract. We investigated the relative importance of CH4 and CO2 fluxes from soil and termite mounds at four different sites in the tropical savannas of northern Australia near Darwin and assessed different methods to indirectly predict CH4 fluxes based on CO2 fluxes and internal gas concentrations. The annual flux from termite mounds and surrounding soil was dominated by CO2 with large variations among sites. On a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) basis, annual CH4 flux estimates from termite mounds were 5- to 46-fold smaller than the concurrent annual CO2 flux estimates. Differences between annual soil CO2 and soil CH4 (CO2-e) fluxes were even greater, soil CO2 fluxes being almost three orders of magnitude greater than soil CH4 (CO2-e) fluxes at site. The contribution of CH4 and CO2 emissions from termite mounds to the total CH4 and CO2 emissions from termite mounds and soil in CO2-e was less than 1%. There were significant relationships between mound CH4 flux and mound CO2 flux, enabling the prediction of CH4 flux from measured CO2 flux; however, these relationships were clearly termite species specific. We also observed significant relationships between mound flux and gas concentration inside mound, for both CH4 and CO2, and for all termite species, thereby enabling the prediction of flux from measured mound internal gas concentration. However, these relationships were also termite species specific. Using the relationship between mound internal gas concentration and flux from one species to predict mound fluxes from other termite species (as has been done in the past) would result in errors of more than 5-fold for mound CH4 flux and 3-fold for mound CO2 flux. This study highlights that CO2 fluxes from termite mounds are generally more than one order of magnitude greater than CH4 fluxes. There are species-specific relationships between CH4 and CO2 fluxes from a mound, and between the inside mound concentration of a gas and the mound flux emission of the same gas, but these relationships vary greatly among termite species. Thus, there is no generic relationship that will allow for the accurate prediction of CH4 fluxes from termite mounds of all species, but given the data limitations, the above methods may still be used with caution.