Forest fire has big carbon footprint

February 15th, 2009 - 9:40 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 15 (DPA) Australians are already doing more than their share of heating up the world, with average greenhouse gas emissions near the top of the table. Now the continent’s worst forest fires on record have bumped up the size of Australia’s carbon footprint.

The fires north of Melbourne that have burned out 450,000 hectares of trees have let off a massive amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Sydney University researcher Mark Adams said.

He estimates one week’s blazes released almost as much as the nation’s industries did in the whole of last year.

When forests are planted as carbon sinks, the idea is that they will help soak up emissions from the combustion of coal and other fossil fuels.

But it works the other way too. When trees go up in flames, the carbon store is released.

When Victoria’s eucalyptus forests regenerate - which they will, and remarkably speedily too - new growth will offset some of carbon lost to the fire.

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