Fire in Australian savannas: From leaf to landscape

Jason Beringer, Lindsay B Hutley, David Abramson, Stefan K Arndt, Peter Briggs, Mila Bristow, Josep G Canadell, Lucas A Cernusak, Derek Eamus, Andrew C Edwards, Bradley J Evans, Benedikt Fest, Klaus Goergen, Samantha P Grover, Jorg Hacker, Vanessa Haverd, Kasturi Kanniah, Stephen J Livesley, Amanda Lynch, Stefan MaierCaitlin Moore, Michael Raupach, Jeremy Russell-Smith, Simon Scheiter, Nigel J Tapper, Petteri Uotila

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85 Citations (Scopus)


Savanna ecosystems comprise 22 of the global terrestrial surface and 25 of Australia (almost 1.9 million km2) and provide significant ecosystem services through carbon and water cycles and the maintenance of biodiversity. The current structure, composition and distribution of Australian savannas have coevolved with fire, yet remain driven by the dynamic constraints of their bioclimatic niche. Fire in Australian savannas influences both the biophysical and biogeochemical processes at multiple scales from leaf to landscape. Here, we present the latest emission estimates from Australian savanna biomass burning and their contribution to global greenhouse gas budgets. We then review our understanding of the impacts of fire on ecosystem function and local surface water and heat balances, which in turn influence regional climate. We show how savanna fires are coupled to the global climate through the carbon cycle and fire regimes. We present new research that climate change is likely to alter the structure and function of savannas through shifts in moisture availability and increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, in turn altering fire regimes with further feedbacks to climate. We explore opportunities to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from savanna ecosystems through changes in savanna fire management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-81
Number of pages20
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Biomass burning
  • Climate feedbacks
  • Greenhouse gas exchange
  • Net ecosystem carbon balance
  • Savanna

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