Greenhouse benefits of changing land-use practices predicted on-line

Farmers and landholders who are interested in landcare or the environment can now calculate the greenhouse benefits of different land-use options using a free on-line ‘carbon sequestration predictor’.

The carbon sequestration predictor has been developed by State Forests of NSW in collaboration with the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, NSW Agriculture, and the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting.

Specifically developed with landholders in western NSW in mind, it predicts how much carbon will be captured and stored from planting trees, perennial pasture, or saltbush or in managing regeneration native vegetation.

State Forests and CRC for Greenhouse Accounting research scientist Dr Kelvin Montagu said that the predictor was easy to use and was available on-line or as a downloadable spreadsheet.

"It allows land managers to get realistic predictions of carbon sequestration from a range of land-use options such as commercial and environmental tree plantings,” Dr Montagu said.

The operator is required to make simple selections to identify the current land use, the proposed new land use, annual rainfall, soil type and any special features, for example, if the site is waterlogged or salt affected.

"The program will then predict the change in carbon over 40 years, taking into account the carbon stored in trees, pasture and soil,” Dr Montagu said.

“As a simple example, if you are in a 400 to 600mm annual rainfall zone and you changed from annual pastures to an environmental planting of trees, the amount of carbon stored is predicted to increase by 9 tonnes of carbon per hectare in the first 10 years.”

Dr Montagu said the data used to underpin the model have been collected by all of the agencies involved in the project over several years. Improvements in the predictive ability of the model will occur over coming months and years as information from State Forests extensive network of dryland species demonstration trials becomes available.

"In addition to measuring the diameters of trees from many sites, we have dug up entire trees so that we can estimate the carbon stored not only above the ground but also in the root systems at sites in low rainfall areas,” Dr Montagu said.

He said the predictor was developed for use in assessing landholder proposals under the NSW Government's 'Environmental Services Scheme'.

The scheme is focused on valuing new activities such as establishing planted forests, and quantifying the environmental benefits such plantings will have, including on salinity, with the carbon sequestered by the trees an added benefit that may one day have a financial value – making such plantings more economically viable. The predictor was used to assess applications under the scheme, with other tools also being developed to predict the impacts of individual proposals on salinity, acid sulfate soils, biodiversity, soil retention and nutrient management.

"Using toolkits like this in the assessment process enables an objective approach and will maximise the environmental benefits from public investment in private land management," Dr Montagu said.

The carbon calculator is downloadable from State Forests web site at or can be run online at the CRC for Greenhouse Accounting website.

Media contact: Kelvin Montagu on (02) 9872 0146 or 0438 840 507.