The results shed light on the dramatic toll of the fires that have ravaged southeastern Australia. Three years ago, between September 2019 and February 2020, fires of unprecedented scale killed at least thirty-three people and destroyed 2,500 homes. They also caused severe ecological consequences and destruction More than eight million hectares of forests Each year the country emits more carbon into the atmosphere than it emits.
A study, published Thursday 1R September In review Remote Sensing of EnvironmentHowever, by the end of 2020, these emissions had been reabsorbed by vegetation, which had grown much faster. “In terms of biomass, everything that was lost during the fire was recovered the following year. Jean-Pierre Vigneron, a researcher at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRE) and one of the authors of the work, explains.. So these lamps were neutral in terms of carbon emissions. »
While the loss of forest area is evident, the loss of vegetation, measured in terms of biomass, is more difficult to estimate. The study estimates for the first time in tonnes per hectare the amount of grasses, shrubs and eucalypts killed by fire, drought and especially high temperatures, and the state of this biomass one year after these extreme events.
According to the estimates of INRE, the Commission for Nuclear and Alternative Energy and researchers from several international universities, which is consistent with the results of other scientific work, about 15% of the biomass of the forest area has been lost in 2019-2020. During the season, about 200 million tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere. About half (90 million tons) are linked to fires, and the other half (110 million) to drought and record temperatures, with weather conditions having a major impact.
On the other hand, in 2020, the amount of biomass has greatly increased, making it possible to save more than 260 million tons of carbon. A very rapid recovery can be explained by a combination of factors: Eucalyptus species, most of which are known in Australian forests; “break” Very quickly after the fire. At the same time, 2020 saw above-average rainfall, which favored the recovery of still-living trees and the growth of understory vegetation.
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