A year after the gigantic fires in Australia, the vegetation had reabsorbed all carbon emissions

A year after the gigantic fires in Australia, the vegetation had reabsorbed all carbon emissions

A year after the gigantic fires in Australia, the vegetation had reabsorbed all carbon emissions

During the fire that broke out in Bobin, 350 kilometers north of Sydney, Australia on 9 November 2019.

These are findings that shed light on the dramatic toll of the fires that have ravaged South East Australia. Three years ago, between September 2019 and February 2020, fires of unprecedented magnitude killed at least thirty-three people and destroyed 2,500 homes. They also had serious ecological consequences, destroying more than eight of them millions of hectares of forest and emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than the country releases each year.

A study, published Thursday 1uh September in the magazine Remote sensing of the environmenthowever, it states that, by the end of 2020, these emissions had been reabsorbed by the vegetation, which has grown back very quickly. “As for the biomass, everything that disappeared during the fires was recovered the following year, explains Jean-Pierre Wigneron, researcher at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Inrae) and one of the authors of the work. These lights were therefore carbon neutral. “

Read also The fires of 2019 and 2020 in Australia sent as much smoke as a volcanic eruption into the stratosphere

While forest area loss is clearly visible, vegetation loss, measured in biomass quantity, is much more difficult to estimate. The study evaluates for the first time, in tons per hectare, the amount of herbs, shrubs and eucalyptus trees that have been lost to fires, droughts and particularly high temperatures, and the state of this biomass a year after these extreme events.

“Climate luck”

According to the estimates of researchers from INRAE, the Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy and various international universities, which correspond to the results of other scientific works, about 15% of the biomass of the forest area was lost in the two-year period. 2019-2020 season, about 200 million tons of carbon released into the atmosphere. About half (90 million tons) is related to wildfires and the other half (110 million) to drought and record temperatures, with weather conditions having a major impact.

In 2020, on the other hand, the quantity of biomass increased significantly, which made it possible to store over 260 million tons of carbon. A very rapid recovery which can be explained by a combination of factors: it is known that eucalyptus species, most of them in Australian forests ” to divide “ very quickly after a fire. At the same time, 2020 recorded above-average rainfall, which favored the recovery of trees still alive and the growth of undergrowth vegetation.

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