Fire assisted pastoralism vs. sustainable forestry - the implications of missing markets for carbon in determining optimal land use in the wet-dry tropics of Australia.

David Ockwell & Jon Lovett
Published in Journal of Environmental Management 75 (2005) 1–9


Using Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia as a case study, this paper combines field sampling of woody vegetation with cost-benefit analysis to compare the social optimality of fire-assisted pastoralism with sustainable forestry. Carbon sequestration is estimated to be significantly higher in the absence of fire. Integration of carbon sequestration benefits for mitigating future costs of climate change into cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that sustainable forestry is a more socially optimal land use than fire-assisted pastoralism. Missing markets for carbon, however, imply that fire-assisted pastoralism will continue to be pursued in the absence of policy intervention. Creation of markets for carbon represents a policy solution that has the potential to drive land use away from fire-assisted pastoralism towards sustainable forestry and environmental conservation.

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