Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Carbon measurements

Soil C monitoring in the South Island High Country.

Soil C monitoring in the South Island High Country.

What we are aiming to do

Given the expected increase in private and public conservation land in achievement of New Zealand’s Kyoto commitments there is a need for robust measurements of carbon sequestration in regenerating shrubland. Growth and carbon sequestration rates of most shrubs and native tree species are unknown, as are the effects of species change throughout successions on total carbon stocks, or the relationships between carbon and biodiversity. To properly estimate the effects requires an understanding of total carbon accounting on all components of the system including soils and herbivore impacts. Suitable methods for measuring carbon sequestration and biodiversity change are being developed.

What we will investigate and how

We will measure the changes in carbon sequestration and biodiversity through various common shrubland successions and transitions from shrubland to forest. The work will investigate total carbon stock changes by remeasurement and refinement of existing shrublands and forests at various stages of succession.

Initial investigations have been carried out in tauhinu (Ozothamnus leptophyllus) shrubland successions in Marlborough that indicate considerable carbon sequestration can occur (Carswell et al. 2006). Other studies are under way for kanuka (Kunzea ericioides) forest in Canterbury, and a web-based tool has been developed to convert plot-based measurements to biomass carbon estimates.


  • Hedley CB, Payton IJ, Lynn IH, Carrick ST, Webb TH, McNeill S 2012. Random sampling of stony and non-stony soils for testing a national soil carbon monitoring system. Soil research 50(1): 18-29.
  • Carswell FE, Burrows LE, Hall GMJ, Mason NWH, Allen RB 2012. Carbon and plant diversity gain during 200 years of woody succession in lowland New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 36(2): 191-202.
  • Holdaway RJ, Burrows LE, Carswell FE, Marburg AE 2012. Potential for invasive mammalian herbivore control to result in measurable carbon gains. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 36(2): 252-264.
  • Mason NWH, Carswell FE, Richardson SJ, Burrows LE 2011. Leaf palatability and decomposability increase during a 200-year-old post-cultural woody succession in New Zealand. Journal of vegetation science 22(1): 6-17.
  • Richardson SJ, Peltzer DA, Hurst JM, Allen RB, Bellingham PJ, Carswell FE, Clinton PW, Griffiths AD, Wiser SK, Wright EF 2009. Deadwood in New Zealand's indigenous forests. Forest ecology and management 258(11): 2456-2466.
  • Carswell F, Burrows L 2006. Climate change as an opportunity for environmental enhancement. Primary industry management 9(1): 17-.
  • Carswell F, Burrows L 2006. Could biodiversity add value to New Zealand's Kyoto forest credits? New Zealand journal of forestry 51(2): 31-33.
  • Fan J, Zhong H, Harris W, Yu G, Wang S, Hu,Z.Yue,Y. 2008. Carbon storage in the grasslands of China based on field measurements of above- and below-ground biomass. Climatic change 86(3/4): 375-396.
  • Barbour MM, McDowell NG, Tcherkez G, Bickford CP, Hanson DT 2007. A new measurement technique reveals rapid post-illumination changes in the carbon isotope composition of leaf-respired CO2. Plant cell and environment 30(4): 469-482.
  • Tate KR, Wilde RH, Giltrap DJ, Baisden WT, Saggar S, Trustrum NA, Scott NA, Barton JR 2005. Soil organic carbon stocks and flows in New Zealand: System development, measurement and modelling. Canadian journal of soil science 85(4): 481-.
  • Arneth A, Kelliher FM, McSeveny TM, Byers JN 1999/6. Assessment of annual carbon exchange in a water-stressed Pinus radiata plantation : an analysis based on eddy covariance measurements and an integrated biophysical model. Global change biology 5(5): 531-545.
  • Lassey KR, Tate KR, Sparks RJ, Claydon JJ 1996. Historic measurements of radiocarbon in New Zealand soils. Radiocarbon 38(2): 253-270.
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