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Supply of carbon sequestration and biodiversity services from Australia’s agricultural land under global change

Journal paper, published in Global Environmental Change

Global agroecosystems can contribute to both climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, and market mechanisms provide a highly prospective means of achieving these outcomes. However, the ability of markets to motivate the supply of carbon sequestration and biodiversity services from agricultural land is uncertain, especially given the future changes in environmental, economic, and social drivers.

We quantified the potential supply of these services from the intensive agricultural land of Australia from 2013 to 2050 under four global outlooks in response to a carbon price and biodiversity payment scheme. Each global outlook specified emissions pathways, climate, food demand, energy price, and carbon price modeled using the Global Integrated Assessment Model (GIAM). Using a simplified version of the Land Use Trade-Offs (LUTO) model, economic returns to agriculture, carbon plantings, and environmental plantings were calculated each year. The supply of carbon sequestration and biodiversity services was then quantified given potential land use change under each global outlook, and the sensitivity of the results to key parameters was assessed.

We found that carbon supply curves were similar across global outlooks. Sharp increases in carbon sequestration supply occurred at carbon prices exceeding 50 $ tCO2−1 in 2015 and exceeding 65 $ tCO2−1 in 2050. Based on GIAM-modeled carbon prices, little carbon sequestration was expected at 2015 under any global outlook. However, at 2050 expected carbon supply under each outlook differed markedly, ranging from 0 to 189 MtCO2 yr−1. Biodiversity services of 3.32 per cent of the maximum may be achieved in 2050 for a 1 $B investment under median scenario settings.

We conclude that a carbon market can motivate supply of substantial carbon sequestration but only modest amounts of biodiversity services from agricultural land. A complementary biodiversity payment can synergistically increase the supply of biodiversity services but will not provide much additional carbon sequestration. The results were sensitive to global drivers, especially the carbon price, and the domestic drivers of adoption hurdle rate and agricultural productivity. The results can inform the design of an effective national policy and institutional portfolio addressing the dual objectives of climate change and biodiversity conservation that is robust to future uncertainty in both national and global drivers.


Brett A Bryan, Martin Nolan, Tom Harwood, Jeffrey Connor, Javier Navarro-Garcia, Darran King, D Summers, David Newth, Yiyong Cai, Nicky Grigg, Ian Harman, Neville Crossman, Michael Grundy, John Finnigan, Simon Ferrier, Kristen Williams, Kerry Wilson, Elizabeth Law. and Steve Hatfield-Dodds

Access the publication in the CSIRO Research Publications Repository.

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