12 October 2016
Dr Adrian Ward reminds us that forests, marine ecosystems, mountain grasslands and shrublands are all under threat from multiple stressors.
Dr Adrian Ward reminds us that forests, marine ecosystems, mountain grasslands and shrublands are all under threat from multiple stressors.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has showcased a University of Queensland study highlighting the value of carbon sequestered by high mountain ecosystems globally.

FAO’s Mountain Partnership, involving more than 250 government and other authorities, has profiled the study by Dr Adrian Ward of UQ’s School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the Global Change Institute.

Dr Ward’s recently completed doctoral thesis estimates the economic value of carbon dioxide sequestered by mountain grasslands and shrublands at between $US 1.24 billion and $11.8 billion yearly in climate regulation terms.

This adds to an existing carbon pool which Dr Ward estimated to be contain an equivalent in-situ value of between $US 2.5 trillion and $26.5 trillion.

“The mitigation of climate change is a global priority,” Dr Ward said.

“The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement sets an ambitious goal of limiting global warming well below two degrees Celsius, and ideally at 1.5 degrees Celsius, by the end of the 21st Century.

“While recent publications have highlighted the important role that terrestrial forests, wetland forests, marine ecosystems (such as mangroves and seagrass meadows) and lowland grasslands play in global climate mitigation efforts, there have been few studies quantifying how mountain grasslands and shrublands might contribute.

“These fragile high-altitude (mostly above treeline) ecosystems cover around 6 per cent or 9.38 million km2 of the Earth’s landmass, provide habitat for rare flora and fauna species while supplying water, food, fibre and economic opportunities to billions of people, many of whom are very poor.”

Dr Ward said forests, marine ecosystems, mountain grasslands and shrublands were all under threat from multiple stressors.

Without a global assessment and understanding of the extent and value of carbon stocks in mountain grasslands and shrublands these ecosystems could not be effectively integrated into international carbon budgets and climate policy.

“My study helped address this issue by providing both an estimate of carbon stored in mountain grasslands and shrublands areas, and its relative economic value in climate regulation terms.

“I also make recommendations for factoring this carbon into international climate policy frameworks and budgets, and how climate finance might be used to address the various drivers of degradation in mountains grassland and shrubland ecosystems around the world.”

Dr Ward said he hoped the thesis could provide input for other studies that previously excluded estimates for carbon in alpine areas.

Media: Dr Adrian Ward, a.ward@uq.edu.au, +61 (0)423 675 525.

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