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Published: 25 February 2013

Coal exports, trees and the nation’s carbon balance

Australia’s contribution to global carbon dioxide levels is largely through fossil-fuel emissions related to the nation’s export of coal, according to CSIRO carbon expert Dr Vanessa Haverd.

Forest-scale EucFACE experiment in NSW: such research provides data on real-life carbon exchanges enabling researchers to develop more accurate predictive models that can feed into policy decisions.
Credit: UWS

‘Fossil fuel exports are one-and-a-half times our fossil fuel emissions,’ Vanessa told a large audience of researchers at the recent 2013 TERN Symposium.

‘And that is after accounting for NBP [net biome production], which offsets our fossil fuel emissions by 38 per cent.

‘We know that emissions from land-use changes have levelled off, and account for about 1 per cent of Australia’s net primary production.’

Net primary production (NPP) is roughly the difference between the total photosynthesis and total respiration of plants in an ecosystem. NBP is the difference between carbon added to and carbon lost from a biome, or ecosystem, including from human disturbances and use.

Haverd and her team at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (CMAR) have been modelling data to investigate Australia’s contribution to global carbon dioxide concentrations, and have been able to fine-tune the models to improve how well they predict.

‘We believe our work has significantly improved NPP estimates over earlier Australian studies and some global studies,’ she says.

Data streams made available through the CSIRO/TERN OzFlux facility were critical to the research. Dr Helen Cleugh, the Director of OzFlux, highlighted the relevance of OzFlux and other TERN facilities in linking research to policy needs in an earlier presentation.

‘TERN’s infrastructure ‘ecosystem’ is offering the new capabilities needed to collect ecosystem data at continental scales to inform policy needs’, she says.

In another presentation at the carbon session, Professor David Ellsworth, at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, described the EucFACE experiment he is conducting to measure how eucalypt woodlands might respond to an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

‘Carbon dioxide experiments allow us to see where we’re going. They act as a sort of time machine, enabling us to see ahead of time in a real eucalypt forest what changes may occur due to increased atmospheric carbon,’ Ellsworth says.

The research team will measure the response of Eucalyptus microcorys forest to carbon concentrations in the atmosphere of 540 parts per million (ppm), the amount that is predicted to be present by 2050. (The current concentration is about 390 ppm.)

‘We are using leaf nitrogen as a measure. It is a key ecosystem variable. Leaf nitrogen in canopies is relatively stable over time, and can be remotely sensed,’ Ellsworth says.

The team had determined that they could get robust data by sampling two leaves on each of three trees in each measurement plot. As well as taking long-term measurements, the research team will investigate other variables from time to time, as opportunity presents.

‘Will we notice any changes from day-to-day environmental events, for example, the temperature spike of the 46°C day we had at Richmond in January? We don’t know, but we’ll look at them.'

Source: TERN

Published: 17 December 2012

Make your next holiday a sustainable one

Rosemary Black

It’s holiday time and many of us are heading off overseas, or thinking about where to spend our next vacation. Our choice of destination, accommodation and activities can make a difference to local economies, cultures and environments. Dr Rosemary Black offers some advice on how we can make our holidays more sustainable.

A local villager foraging for shellfish on Atauro Island. The island, 35 km south of Dili and separated from the Timor-Leste mainland, has a population of 8000 living among five villages. Eco-tourism is a major source of income, supplementing subsistence fishing and farming. Adventure Ecotourism students from Charles Sturt University <a href="">visited the Tua Koin ecotourism village</a> to study first hand how local people are <a href="">managing the enterprise sustainably</a>.
A local villager foraging for shellfish on Atauro Island. The island, 35 km south of Dili and separated from the Timor-Leste mainland, has a population of 8000 living among five villages. Eco-tourism is a major source of income, supplementing subsistence fishing and farming. Adventure Ecotourism students from Charles Sturt University visited the Tua Koin ecotourism village to study first hand how local people are managing the enterprise sustainably.
Credit: spiderman_frank/panoramio under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence

For developing countries like Fiji, Thailand and Indonesia, tourism is a major source of foreign income and a potentially significant driver for economic growth. So, while we often hear about cases where tourism may have detrimental impacts on the local environment and communities, it can also provide positive benefits.

Sustainable tourism is tourism that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable – that means its aim is to minimise impact on the environment and communities, and at the same time contribute positively to local communities.

What can you do to ensure that your tourism experiences are sustainable?

The first thing is to realise you are a vital part of the global tourism industry, and you can help transform the way the world travels by being a responsible traveller.

As a tourist or potential tourist, ask yourself ‘am I contributing to the local community or environment?’ Travel can and should be much more than simply visiting places, taking pictures and buying souvenirs; it can inspire cultural awareness, tolerance, and commitment to environmental responsibility.

Try to minimise your impact on communities and the environment. One of the most important things you can do as a responsible traveller is to make informed choices before and during your trip. With a little planning, you can improve the quality of your trip, while making a real difference to the people and places you visit.

When choosing destinations, accommodation and tour operators, consider which ones work to protect the environment and benefit local cultures and communities.

Do your homework, ask questions, seek out quality products by looking for accredited operators, guides and accommodation, and look for opportunities to give something back to the local community or environment – many tourism operators are supporting community projects and offering travellers the opportunity to get involved.

By exploring alternative travel choices, you can have a unique trip and avoid leaving negative marks on cultures, economies, and the environment, while making a positive impact on the people and places you visit.

Fijian villagers prepare to perform a ceremonial dance for tourists: seeking out genuine cultural experiences is rewarding for both travellers and the local communities.
Fijian villagers prepare to perform a ceremonial dance for tourists: seeking out genuine cultural experiences is rewarding for both travellers and the local communities.
Credit: peachygreen/flickr under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence

Here are some useful dos and don’ts for your next trip away from The International Ecotourism Society. These are useful for holidays in Australia and overseas.

1. The hotel: Ask about environmental policies and practices. Talk with staff about working conditions. Does the hotel support community projects?

2. Language: Learn a few words of the local language and use them.

3. Dress: Read up on local conventions and dress appropriately. In many countries, modest dress is important.

4. Behaviour: Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy. Ask permission before entering sacred places, homes, or private land.

5. Photos: Be sensitive to when and where you take photos/video of people. Always ask first.

6. Environment: Respect the natural environment. Never touch or harass animals. Always follow designated trails. Support conservation by paying entrance fees to parks and protected sites.

7. Animal products: Never buy crafts or products made from protected or endangered animals.

8. Pay the fair price: Don’t engage in overly aggressive bargaining for souvenirs. Don’t short-change on tips for services.

9. Buy local: Choose locally owned lodges, hotels, and B&Bs. Use local buses, car rental agencies, and airlines. Eat in local restaurants, shop in local markets, and attend local festivals/events.

10. Hire local guides: Enrich your experience and support the local economy. Ask guides if they are licensed and live locally. Are they recommended by tour operators?

A book I recently co-edited explores the issues of how sustainable tourism can provide positive benefits to local people and the environment in developing countries. Sustainable Tourism and the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals: Effecting Positive Change brings together research and examples from around the world of sustainable tourism initiatives.

The UN Millennium Development Goals focus on trying to address global issues like poverty alleviation, primary health care and education for all, environmental sustainability and gender equity. We used this as a framework for the book and explored how sustainable tourism can help support and meet the goals.

We didn’t only have academics writing chapters but sought out local people who actually run sustainable tourism operations in places like Nepal, Costa Rica, Fiji and Indonesia.

I think this book has an important message for tourists from developed countries such as Australia who travel overseas to enjoy the different culture and environment of a developing country – that they can play an important role as responsible tourists and that tourism can help support the health and well-being of local people, assist biodiversity conservation efforts, and preserve local cultural heritage, while also supporting education, equal opportunities for women and basic human rights.

Dr Rosemary Black is a senior lecturer and social researcher in the School of Environmental Sciences at Charles Sturt University specialising in sustainable tourism, heritage interpretation, outdoor recreation and tour guiding. Rosemary previously worked as a park ranger in NSW and adventure travel guide in Nepal, India, China, Tibet and Australia. This is a lightly edited version of an article first published in Open Forum, an independent, non-profit think-tank built around a community blog moderated by Global Access Partners (GAP).

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