, Volume 137, Issue 3, pp 405–416 | Cite as

Carbon balance of a tropical savanna of northern Australia

Ecosystem Ecology


Through estimations of above- and below-ground standing biomass, annual biomass increment, fine root production and turnover, litterfall, canopy respiration and total soil CO2 efflux, a carbon balance on seasonal and yearly time-scales is developed for a Eucalypt open-forest savanna in northern Australia. This carbon balance is compared to estimates of carbon fluxes derived from eddy covariance measurements conducted at the same site. The total carbon (C) stock of the savanna was 204±53 ton C ha−1, with approximately 84% below-ground and 16% above-ground. Soil organic carbon content (0−1 m) was 151±33 ton C ha−1, accounting for about 74% of the total carbon content in the ecosystem. Vegetation biomass was 53±20 ton C ha−1, 39% of which was found in the root component and 61% in above-ground components (trees, shrubs, grasses). Annual gross primary production was 20.8 ton C ha−1, of which 27% occurred in above-ground components and 73% below-ground components. Net primary production was 11 ton C ha−1 year−1, of which 8.0 ton C ha−1 (73%) was contributed by below-ground net primary production and 3.0 ton C ha−1 (27%) by above-ground net primary production. Annual soil carbon efflux was 14.3 ton C ha−1 year−1. Approximately three-quarters of the carbon flux (above-ground, below-ground and total ecosystem) occur during the 5–6 months of the wet season. This savanna site is a carbon sink during the wet season, but becomes a weak source during the dry season. Annual net ecosystem production was 3.8 ton C ha−1 year−1.


CO2 Carbon cycling Wet-dry tropics Carbon source-sink relationships Net ecosystem production 



The project was support by the Cooperative Research Centre for the Sustainable Development of Tropical Savannas (TS-CRC) at the Northern Territory University (NTU). Dr. Tony O'Grady and Ms. Georgina Kelley participated in field work and Ms. Megan Langerveld provided help with the chemical analysis of soil carbon. Dr. Dick Williams of CSIRO, Darwin also provided useful comments and suggestions on the manuscript and Dr David Bowman of the NTU provided useful insights and ideas for site selection. Comparative data on stem respiration was kindly provided by Chloe Tame and Dr. Jason Beringer of Monash University. X.C. is grateful to the TS-CRC and NTU for postgraduate scholarships.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoyong Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lindsay B. Hutley
    • 1
  • Derek Eamus
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Cooperative Research Centre for the Sustainable Development of Tropical Savannas, Faculty of Science, Information Technology and EducationNorthern Territory UniversityDarwinAustralia
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Institute for Water and Environmental Resource ManagementUniversity of Technology—SydneySydneyAustralia

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