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Understanding forest carbon dynamics in Tasmania’s wet forests


Ian Riley is diong a PhD on forest carbon dynamics in Tasmania's wet forests.

It has become widely recognised that the distribution of carbon throughout the world plays an important role in the Earth’s climatic system and that forest landscapes make a substantial contribution to these carbon stocks.  Forests contain large amounts of carbon in the living biomass, dead organic matter and soil, and have the potential to exchange substantial amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) with the atmosphere and dissolved organic carbon into our waterways. Relatively little is known about the carbon stocks of Australian forests compared to those of other countries, and there is currently a strong interest in the potential carbon stocks of Tasmania’s wet forests and the ecological factors affecting these stocks.

Ian Riley recently received a Tasmanian Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) and a Forest and Wood Product Association (FWPA) top-up scholarship and project funding to undertake research in carbon dynamics of Tasmania’s wet forests.  His PhD, titled “Ecological factors affecting forest carbon stocks and fluxes in Tasmania’s wet forests”, aims to increase our understanding of ecosystem dynamics and forest carbon cycling.  Ian will be working collaboratively with the CRC for Forestry, Forestry Tasmania, the FWPA and the School of Plant Science (UTAS) for the next three years.

Ian’s project will focus on the natural ecosystem processes of disturbance (by fire) and succession that have a strong influence on the distribution of forests in Tasmania.  Ian will quantify the living biomass, dead wood, and soil organic matter across a mixed forest/rainforest gradient, using “space-for-time replacement” to determine the effect of succession and periodic fire return intervals.  In addition, Ian will investigate local and landscape scale ecological factors that may affect these processes and the associated carbon stocks.

The project aims to directly increase our understanding of the interaction between ecosystem dynamics and forest carbon stocks, how a change in climate may affect these stocks, and how the carbon stocks of Tasmania’s native forests operate at the landscape level. This information will link back to the role of carbon in forest management and help industry and government make long-term planning decisions.