Landscape showing different land uses.

CSIRO is researching sustainable land use.

Greenhouse Gas Abatement and Carbon Storage in Land Use Systems

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is developing science, technology, measurement and management systems to help reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from Australian lands while increasing the storage of new carbon in our lands.

  • 19 January 2010 | Updated 18 March 2014

Addressing national and global challenges

Research in this theme is helping Australia to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to store or sequester carbon within agricultural, forestry and land use systems.

Tackling GHG emissions is considered to be one of the most serious national and international challenges of our time.

Through this research the Flagship aims to sustain the economic viability of agricultural industries while reducing these emissions.

Supporting GHG emissions reductions

The key ways in which the Flagship's research will support emissions reduction are through:

  • measuring carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions from Australian lands 
  • predicting changes in carbon stocks over time
  • identifying and demonstrating emission reduction practices and associated social, economic and environmental benefits and interactions
  • developing new technologies and practices for emissions reduction and generation of carbon sinks
  • assisting adoption of mitigation options and the institutional arrangements that support them.

With this research and development Australia will be able to provide reliable estimates of emission sources and carbon sinks from agricultural and forestry lands, be able to design permanent and measurable greenhouse gas offsets, and be able to scale-up from the animal, plant or paddock level to regional and continental scales.

Research areas and priorities

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship has five key areas of research and a wide range of projects targeting emission reductions and offsets in land use systems:

1.  Reducing methane emissions from livestock systems: Aims to reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock per unit of product and reduce net emissions of CO2-e from ruminant production systems while maintaining the viability of farming enterprises that include livestock production.

Research example:

Mitigating methane emissions from our northern beef herd

CSIRO is developing reliable methods for measuring methane emissions from Australia’s northern beef herd.

2.  Carbon balance in native ecosystems: Aims to protect and enhance carbon stocks in forests and savannas while maximising co-benefits to the environment and society.

Research example:

Tiwi Carbon Study: managing fire for Greenhouse gas abatement

Tiwi Islanders and CSIRO are working together to examine the biophysical and economic potential of fire management for Greenhouse gas abatement on the Tiwi Islands, as a basis for possible livelihood opportunities for Tiwi people.

3.  New forests as carbon sinks and feedstocks for bioenergy production: Aims to contribute to GHG mitigation by establishing new woody vegetation on agricultural land, by substituting forest products for more greenhouse intensive products, and by provision of feedstocks for bioenergy that displaces use of fossil fuels.

Research example:

Carbon and rural land use: key findings

This report brings together much of the latest research on emission reduction and offsets in rural land, including the potential of forests as carbon sinks.

4.  Soil carbon and nitrogen balance in agricultural lands: Aims to develop and identify management strategies that maximise productive capacity of Australian agricultural soils while minimising greenhouse gas emissions and resource degradation.

Research examples:

Map of Australia's soil carbon

CSIRO has produced a map showing organic carbon stored in Australian soil. The map provides an important benchmark which will help Australia track changes in soil carbon stocks and assist with strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Soil Carbon Research Program: assessing soil carbon across Australia

The first nationally coordinated program of soil carbon research has gathered a wealth of information on soil carbon stocks that will underpin Australia’s greenhouse gas accounting, carbon farming and sustainable agriculture.

Biochar as a soil amendment in agriculture

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is leading national collaborative research analysing the properties and potential of a variety of biochars to sequester carbon, reduce nitrous oxide emissions, and alter soil functions in order to improve plant productivity.

5.  Adoption pathways for carbon pollution reduction: Aims to provide information and decision support that encourages and informs policy resulting in adoption of profitable land-use and management practices that reduce carbon pollution.

Research example:

Reforestation under a Carbon Market: Key Findings

This report examines the likely effects of a carbon market on the supply and demand for tree plantings to sequester carbon in agricultural lands in South Australia.


The theme works with all tiers of government, industry and the agricultural sector to address the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. The theme will seek to catalyse national and international research collaboration both through partnering in research and through collaborative funding.

Find out more about the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.