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Climate Group

The Savanna Fire Experiment (SAFE)

Investigators

Dr. Jason Beringer (School of Geography and Env. Sci. - Monash University)

Dr. Lindsay Hutley (Northern Territory University)

Professor Amanda Lynch (School of Geography and Env. Sci. - Monash University)

Dr. Steve Siems (School of mathematics, Monash University)

Professor Nigel Tapper (School of Geography and Env. Sci. - Monash University)

Project Overview

To understand the effects of fire on heat, moisture and carbon dioxide fluxes in Australia's tropical savannas. Details can be found by clicking HERE. The project is closely related to Dr. Lindsay Hutley's CRC project examining the water and carbon exchanges of savannas (http://savanna.ntu.edu.au/research/projects/carbon.html). The tower will provide longterm measurements as part of the Ozflux network.

Data

Data updated daily can be found here.

The Site (courtesy Andrew Kerley)

The site is located at 12o29.712'S 131o09.003'E. The surface is quite flat in this region, the elevation is close to 38 metres above sea level.

A map showing the spatial location of the study sites, Howard Springs and Darwin. Source: Generated from the map-making facilities on the internet page: http://www.aquarius.geomar.de

Vegetation and soils at the sites (Courtesy Kerley)

Vegetation at the site was considered open forest. The understorey was the common Sorgham sp. grass, while the canopy consisted of relatively even distributions of Eucalyptus tetradonta and Eucalyptus miniata which provided a canopy cover of about 50% (Hutley et al. 2000). Eucalyptus overstorey with a grass understorey comprises of 56% of the total area burnt in the Northern Territory in 1992 (Beringer et al., 1995). For the typical Northern Australian tropical savanna, there are generally about 750 stems per hectare (pers. com. L Hutley). Leaf area index was manually estimated at the site to have a value of approximately 0.7 (pers. com. L. Hutley).

A moderate intensity fire through our eddy covariance site (Photo Beringer)

High Resolution Video of a controlled fire through our site (.mpg 7.9 mb)

A nearby low to moderate intensity burn through open savanna woodland. Jason Beringer shown on left.

A moderate intensity burn heading toward our tower where the photo was taken. On the right an aerial photo of the site the week following the burn. Note the scorched canopy.

The Fire flux team from left to right: Dr. Lindsay Hutley (CRC-tropical savannas), Dr. Jason Beringer (Monash University), Andrew Coutts (Monash University) and Andrew Kerley (Monash University).

The before pictures showing the Eucalypt woodland and grassland understorey. The grass provides ample fuel for burning.

The after pictures. On the right the hour following fire (note smoke in the air). On the right ten days after fire. Note that the canopy is scorched and leaves have fallen from the trees.

Climate (courtesy Andrew Kerley)

The research sites were both located near Howard Springs (130o45'E, 12o50'S), which is part of the humid coastal region of the Northern Territory. This region experiences two major seasons: wet and dry. The wet season generally occurs from December to March (inclusive) and during this time approximately 95% of the annual rainfall (which in this region is approximately 1750 mm per annum) occurs as shown in the figure below (BOM, 2001b). The dry season generally occurs from May to September (inclusive). There is also a 'transition' period throughout October and November where humidity and temperature start to increase and severe thunderstorms become more frequent (Taylor and Tulloch, 1985).

Rainfall 
graph for station 14015

Monthly rainfall data from Darwin airport from 1940-2000. Source: BOM (2001a)

Maximum temperatures range from 30.4 oC (in July) to 33.2 oC (in November), while minimum temperatures range from 19.3 oC (in July) to 25.4 oC (in November). Therefore, the maximum and minimum range varies from 7 oC (wet season) to 11 oC (dry season).

Results

Albedo measurements pre and post fire.

Time series of shortwave albedo at both sites from day 222 to 277 (the red arrow indicates the time of the control site fire).

DOWNLOAD POWERPOINT SLIDE SHOW (10mb) from the Australia New Zealand Climate Forum, Darwin, Sept 17-21, 2001

Publications

Beringer, J., Hutley, L.B., Tapper, N.J., Coutts, A. Kerley, A. and O'Grady, A.P. (2003) Fire impacts on surface heat, moisture and carbon fluxes from a tropical savanna in north Australia, International Journal of Wildland Fire, Special Issue "Fire and Savanna Landscapes in Northern Australia: Regional Lessons and Global Challenges", 12: 333-340.

Hutley, L., Beringer, J., Leuning, R. and Cleugh, H.(2004) The utility of the eddy covariance techniques as a tool in carbon accounting: tropical savanna as a case study , Special issue of Australian Journal of Botany on Carbon accounting and land management in Australian savanna (Accepted November 2004).

Barrett, D., Hill, M., Hutley, L., Beringer, J., Xu, J., Cook, G., Carter, J., Williams, D (2004) Prospects for improving savanna carbon models using data assimilation methods, Special issue of Australian Journal of Botany on Carbon accounting and land management in Australian savannas,(Submitted August 2004).

Beringer, J., Packham, D. and Tapper, N. (1995) Biomass burning and resulting emissions in the Northern Territory, Australia, International Journal of Wildland Fire, 5(4): 229-235.