Transcript of the A look at LOOC-C, Carbon Abatement Calculator webinar

Heather Field:

Okay, I think we'll get started everyone. So, hello everyone and welcome to today's webinar, which is on A look at LOOC-C, which is a carbon abatement calculator. My name is Heather Field and I'm a Climate Change Service Development Officer with Agriculture Victoria and facilitating today's webinar.

Heather Field:

Before our presenter begins, just a few housekeeping items. This webinar is being recorded and will be made available after today. And you are all muted just to stop background noise. So, if you do have a question, please use the chat function, which is currently explained on your screen. And we'll make some time at the end of the presentation for questions.

Heather Field:

When using the chat function, if you can address your questions to all panelists. And there will be a short survey following today's webinar, which will take just a couple of minutes to complete, and we greatly appreciate your assistance in completing that. Before we commence, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and water on which we are all meeting and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

Heather Field:

And I'm tuning in from Ballarat, the lands of the Wadawurrung people, and I'd like to acknowledge all the lands on which everyone is tuning in from today. So, welcome to our webinar today. LOOC-C, which stands for Landscape Opportunities and Options for Carbon Abatement Calculator. And LOOC-C has been developed by the CSIRO, and I'm pleased to have Dr. Stephen Roxburgh present to us today.

Heather Field:

So, Stephen is a researcher with this CSIRO, and has done a lot of work on this tool with his team. Stephen is a recognised leader terrestrial plant ecology and greenhouse gas accounting with over a 20 years’ experience in the field measurement and computer modeling of forest growth and carbon cycling. He joined the CSIRO in 2008, where he leads a team of researchers investigating forest growth, carbon sequestration, and the implications of climate change on forest productivity.

Heather Field:

And Stephen works closely with the Australian government to develop robust methods for greenhouse gas accounting, including impacts of wildfires, the carbon sequestration of forest revegetation, avoided deforestation, and the carbon balance of harvested native forests. So, there's a lot of interest at the moment across agriculture for emissions reduction. And this calculator gives producers information to assess potential changes to carbon by undertaking various tree or soil carbon activities on their land.

Heather Field:

And we've had great interest today with about 250 people registered. So, a few more still coming in, which is great. So, thank you for joining us today, Stephen, and we look forward to hearing more about LOOC-C. Over to you.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Well, thanks, Heather. Thanks for the introduction, and indeed, thanks for the invitation to present today, and thanks to everyone who has dialed in to hear about our LOOC-C tool. So, what I thought I'd like to do today is start off and give a little bit of background on the project and where it came from, and then go into a couple of demonstrations toward the methodologies, to give an overview of how the tool works, but also to provide, I guess, some insights and some tips and traps to be aware of when using the tool, and then open it up for questions and discussion.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, this project actually started back in 2016, and as Heather indicated, this was funded internally by CSRIO. And it came out of a general feeling that we had at that time, that there was a large amount of carbon abatement potential in the land sector in Australia, but there are a number of barriers in place preventing people really getting stuck into taking advantage of that. And that that was five or more years ago, and since then we've done a lot of work and others around the country have done a lot of work confirming that there are indeed some significant barriers to people participating in carbon farming activities.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, our initial aim hailed all the way through from those, I guess, those early days, and really the aim is around increasing participation of the land sector and the carbon market to the benefit of landholders and to the benefit of the national effort to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To give you a bit of an idea of the team that was involved, I think it's fair to say that we'd call this truly interdisciplinary. We had a range of soil and vegetation scientists, one of those was me. We had some economists, various flavors of IT specialists responsible for the designing and the managing and the coding of the tool.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And we had some external consultants as well, helping us out. But it turned out that really critical to the team was expertise in the social sciences for two main reasons. One, for helping to identify where people's pain points were and then trying to work out how to get engaged in land based carbon activities and what those barriers for them might be. And that helped us to design the tool and to, I guess, mold it in such a way that that'll be of maximum use to people.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And then the second really significant role that the social science team brought was something that we call human centered design. And that was really key. So, this tool didn't come about from a bunch of boffins sitting around a room, just deciding that they might want to write some interesting software, which is kind of where we started, but with the human centered design focus, it really morphed into, I guess, a close consultation between a whole wide range of potential users and the developers.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And some of you online may have even spoken to Cara or Marty in our team as this process went through. What that meant was that over time, the scope and the functionality of the tool evolved quite a lot. So, where we ended up with was really quite different from where we started, and that was all driven by the feedback that we were getting along the way. Changing slides, there we go. So, it was really a couple of years into the project before the thing really started to take shape. And that was informed by a whole range of really great feedback we were getting from people through consultations and interviews and attending field days, and that sort of thing.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, some of the key messages that we were getting, that it really was difficult for people to obtain really basic introductory information on what range of carbon abatement activities might be available for a given location. And really broadly speaking, a lack of an entry or a portal into understanding more generally about carbon farming in Australia. And another barrier that was fairly obvious was the view that the Emissions Reduction Fund methods are somewhat complicated and a bit opaque and a little bit bureaucratic, which is probably still the case.

Stephen Roxburgh:

The other clear feedback we got was that people didn't want a complicated model with a glitzy interface, with a gazillion detailed outputs. People were really willing to sacrifice the level of accuracy you get with a scientific tool to get something which might give a much more approximate value, but a broader indication of what the abatement potential might be. That could be used as an initial source of information and as a conversation starter, rather than the end point of a quantitative number of what the abatement might actually be for that particular location.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And the other overwhelming feedback we got was that it needed to be quick and easy to use. People just don't have the patience, understandably, to sit down with a tool and spend any more than a few minutes at maximum working through it to get the information out of it. So, what's in LOOC-C? So, there are seven activities that cover a range of, I guess, possible agricultural management changes that can be implemented to sequester carbon, or to avoid greenhouse gas emission. And these are all aligned with the Australian government's Emissions Reduction Fund.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Just a reminder that the Emissions Reduction Fund is all about seeking a mechanism to encourage the adoption of practices that lead to increased sequestration or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including in the land sector. It's open to anyone really, businesses, land owners, community groups, and so on, and they can earn Australian carbon credit units, or ACCUs, by undertaking these sorts of projects where one ACCU equates to one carbon dioxide equivalent, and that could be sold to the Australian government as part of their reverse option scheme, or on the secondary market more generally, to generate income.

Stephen Roxburgh:

The catch with that is that the projects must be implemented in full accordance with the methods and the standards that was set up by the government to ensure that it's got full integrity and that the abatement that generated is indeed transparent and real. Of the seven activities that are included in LOOC-C, four of them involve the management of vegetation. Numbers one and two on that list there are all about removing or modifying current management pressures that are preventing forest cover being attained. So that that woody vegetation is allowed to recover through time with credit given to the carbon that's been stored in the living and dead biomass as the forest regrows.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Many of you'll be aware that the human induced regeneration method is by far the single most popular and the method that is generating by far the most abatement across all sectors in Australia. The third one on the list there is all around establishing new forests with native species or mallee species. And the fourth one there is around the avoided clearing of native regrowth. So, gaining credit for not reclearing land that would otherwise have been cleared in a as business as usual scenario.

Stephen Roxburgh:

There are two soil management variants included in the tool. The first one there, number five, that uses the Emission Reduction Fund's default values methodology. And I won't be saying too much about that one, given that the default values in that method are so conservatively low that no one's actually bothered to use it. But it's included in the tool for completeness. We'll be looking much more closely at the measurement of soil carbon methodology in just a moment.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And the last one on the list there is abatement that can be achieved through reducing the emissions intensity of beef cattle production through things like bringing in new genetic stock or introducing water points and fencing and that sort of thing. So, some of the methods inside LOOC-C produce numbers that will be very close or identical to what you might get by doing an actual ERF project. The soil defaults method is one of those and the vegetation methods come pretty close to that as well, as we'll see.

Stephen Roxburgh:

The other two there, the numbers that are produced, they're much more loosely linked to what you might get out of an ERF project. It's more about providing a more generalised estimate, a bit of a ballpark figure of what might be achieved by undertaking that activity. And that's the two methodologies that are based on direct measurement, rather than modeling. So, obviously if they're based on measurement, then that really depends what actually happens in a particular project, will determine how much abatement is achieved. So, by the very nature, they have to be quite generalised.

Stephen Roxburgh:

There's also a fundamental difference across the methods and how the abatement is produced and delivered. In the first five of them there, those results are precalculated as model layers within LOOC-C and they get queried in response to whatever the user inputs into the interface. The last two there, the abatement that is calculated, is driven entirely by inputs that are provided by the user. For the beef cattle herd management one, that's some detail on what the expected herd composition might be over the course of a project. And for the measurement of source carbon methodology, the required input there is the anticipated increase in percent soil carbon content in the top 30 centimeters of the soil.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, there is a fundamental difference between those two, where one is you're delivered on a platter a number that that might be indicative, whereas those two measurement based ones, the user has much more responsibility for ensuring that the numbers that come out makes some sense. So, I'll just move on now and I guess change gears a little bit and switch to LOOC-C itself, and just work through a couple of examples and talk through what's going on, and how to interpret some of these results.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, LOOC-C is rather nice. It's got a nice, simple URL, looc-c.farm. Nice and easy to remember. When you load up the page for the first time, you end up with this landing area, which gives a brief welcome and a description of what the tool is intended to do. And there are three main tabs here. There's this introductory tab, there's a farm details tab, which we'll just look at in the moment, which we provide some of the information, and then one labeled methods discovery, which is where the results are presented. So, clicking on this nice big orange button starts the process. And the first thing that you get confronted with is a map of Australia where you're prompted to outline the proposed boundary of the project that you're intending to do.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, I've got one preselected. It's just to the east of Bendigo. So, I can type in Bendigo into the search, that'll take me straight there. Now, there's absolutely no significance to the selection of this particular paddock that I'm going to use as an example. I chose it because it was nice and easy to navigate to, and it's also a nice regular square shape, so I can quickly draw a boundary around it. If this does happen to be someone's property in the audience, I suppose we might have to stump up a price for that. I mean it's probably a pretty good coincidence.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, the first thing to do is to click on that area tool and mark out any area. So, I'll just do that relatively quickly. I'm going to avoid that, that looks like a water point or something there. Doesn't really matter. Okay. So, once that area is outlined, then the tool starts prompting you to respond to a few questions. The first one here is a request to enter any area that needs to be excluded from the calculation. For example, if that area selected included a road or a dam or something like that, you might want to take that out of the calculation.

Stephen Roxburgh:

There's no way in LOOC-C to click on and draw a boundary around a dam or anything like that. It's just given as a rough percentage reduction of the land area that you want to exclude. And we did that in the interests of keeping the tool as simple as possible to use. I'll leave that blank at the moment. This one here is fairly critical. It's a question around what the current production or the prior production system is. And the response to this is important because that determines what methods might be eligible to do on that particular location. So, you'll get a different set of options coming out, depending on what you select as being the prior land use.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Clearly, if it's currently native forest, then you won't get any options regarding agricultural soil management, for example. So, I'll select cropping for that one. And then that pops up a range of other additional questions. Now, these ones are all geared towards the default soils method. And that's the one that I mentioned that no one's actually using, because the values are fairly conservative and low. So, if you're not actually interested in that method too much, then the responses to these questions don't actually matter too much. So, you don't have to labor or agonise over what to enter for those. So, I'll just put no for each of those. Here we go.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Okay, once that's done, we've got the area selected, and those questions answered, you can flip to next, and that jumps to that results page, the methods discovery page. At the top part here, there's a brief summary of what was entered. There's also a bit of a summary map. It shows that the area that I selected there was 33 hectares in extent, that's fairly critical for the calculations that are done. Beneath that are what we call these report cards, and there's one of these for each of the methods that was identified as being potentially viable for this particular location.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And you can see there are three there. There's the default soil carbon one, which we shall speak of no more. There's the reforestation by environmental plantings of mallees, and emissions and soil carbon sequestration. So, those latter two I'll go through in a little bit more detail. Starting with the reforestation by environmental and mallee plantings. The first thing to note is that there's a little, I guess, graphic indicator there labeled farm co-benefits. And this came out also of our consultation during the development of the project.

Stephen Roxburgh:

People were kind of interested in carbon, but they were generally more interested in what else carbon could bring with it, be that improved soil health and quality, increased productivity, increased production of the farm, biodiversity benefits, that kind of thing. So, to have a crack at estimating what those were, we developed a simple classification of the different sorts of co-benefits that are associated with each of the activities. So, if we click on that, that brings up a table. And I won't go through this in any detail, but the co-benefits are categorised into things around farm profitability and resilience, environmental, and social benefits.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And there's also a couple of dis-benefits listed there that, that people might want to be aware of. And a little bit of a rating there of how, I guess, of how relevant those co-benefits might be to that particular methodology. If we're going back to the report card here, we can see that the abatement results are given at the bottom of the card. And there are two key numbers that are reported for each of the cards. For the environmental mallees, it's suggesting that across the whole 25 years, which is a timeframe that LOOC-C looks over for calculating the abatement.

Stephen Roxburgh:

At the end of that 25 years, it's suggesting a bit over 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide has been accumulated across that 33 hectares of the project. And the number below that is based on the same analysis, but it's the annual or the per year estimate per hectare. So, tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year. And that gives us an idea of, I guess, the emissions abatement rate per unit land area, which is also a useful measure. And that's about five tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, I'll just switch back to the presentation. So, on this slide, what I've got is on the left hand side is just a copy of that report card from the LOOC-C interface. And what I want to do is just give, I guess, a little bit of insight into where those numbers come from and what they mean and how they might be perhaps more completely interpreted. So, for this particular methodology, the environmental mallees, it's based on a model called FullCAM, which is the Australian government's official model that's used to calculate greenhouse gas sequestration and emissions across the land sector.

Stephen Roxburgh:

It's a freely available tool, it's downloadable, and there's lots of documentation available for how it might be used. But LOOC-C doesn't actually use the FullCAM model directly. What it does, or what we did was we pre ran FullCAM lots of runs across the whole continent and saved those in the database. And so when a user does a query, what it's actually doing is querying a database of pre-processed FullCAM results. It's not actually running FullCAM directly.

Stephen Roxburgh:

But what I did actually do was go into FullCAM and type in the latitude and longitude for that paddock and set the FullCAM model up according to the method guidelines for the environmental mallee plantings and ran it. And this is some screenshots there that you don't have to take too much of notice of the details there. It's just to give you an impression of what FullCAM looks like. And as you can probably see from that, it is a reasonably complicated beast for the uninitiated.

Stephen Roxburgh:

But the good thing is, as I indicated, there are guidelines available on the government web pages that step you through how to use FullCAM. So, if you are interested in having a play around the tool itself, that's accessible and it's a good way to dip your toe in the water with that. So, when I set that up and ran FullCAM for that location, this is the results that I got. The green line there it is the expected accumulation of carbon over the first 25 years in the living tree biomass. So, the green is the living tree biomass, and the purple line is the accumulation in the dead biomass, or the debris as we like to call it.

Stephen Roxburgh:

I guess those of you involved in the CFA or RFS, you'd call that fuel. So, adding those two things together, 27 tons for the living biomass and seven tons for the fuel, approximately, gives about 34 tons of carbon per year at the end of the run of the model. So, the first thing to note here is a bit of a word of warning. Whenever you read stuff on the internet, or the newspaper, or hear stuff on the radio, you have to be aware of what the units are that people are using when they're talking about carbon abatement, because people continually mix up units of carbon with units of carbon dioxide.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, units of carbon is what the FullCAM model produces. Units of carbon dioxide is what the ACCU is based on and what sits under LOOC-C. So, that's just something to be wary of, but it's easy to switch between the two. Take the carbon amount of 34.4 and multiply it by 3.666, you end up with carbon dioxide. It's that simple. So, the total amount from the FullCAM modeling after 25 years was about 126 tons per hectare carbon dioxide.

Stephen Roxburgh:

How does that relate to what comes out of LOOC-C? Well, it's quite simple. If we take that 126 tons and we divide it by 25 to get the average annual rate, we end up with 5.05, which is exactly what was reported in the LOOC-C interface. And if we take that 126 and multiply it by the 33 hectares of the total area, we end up with the 4,111 for the total. Before going on, I might just, I guess, give a couple of quick tips around interpreting the environmental plantings and mallee output. It's generally quite straightforward, but you do need to be aware that those two numbers that are reported and what they mean.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, one is the total summed across the whole area after 25 years of growth. And the other is the average annual sequestration per head there. Now you can see from that green line that that average rate doesn't really reflect what goes on over time. The forest grows quicker earlier and then slows down over time. And that can be important to many people, because as the carbon is accumulating quicker earlier, that means you get ACCUs and money earlier, which has a big impact on the, I guess, the economic outlook for, or liability for the project given that these projects tend to have quite high startup costs.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, if you are interested in that time course, we don't have that presented as part of the LOOC-C output, but there is a rule of thumb in the LOOC-C report card, which suggests that the first half of those credits you get them after about 10 years. And the second half of the credits you get over the second 15 years of that 25 year period. So, that just reflects the fact that things grow faster earlier. So, if you do want a bit of an estimate of what you might get in the first 10 years, you can just divide that total estimate by two. Then, as I said, that's noted on the LOOC-C interface.

Stephen Roxburgh:

I guess the other thing I'll note is that like most bits of software, you can get LOOC-C to do some pretty stupid things. You could put a planting on the top of Uluru and you'll get some sequestration predicted, but that doesn't mean that that's particularly sensible thing to do. So, always keep in mind that LOOC-C is providing, I guess a guide, but it also relies on the user having enough knowledge to know what's feasible and sensible for a particular area. Actually to aid with this, we are just adding some additional warnings into the LOOC-C interface that will remind people that growing forests in the middle of the Simpson Desert is probably not a great idea.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And that update should be available over the next week or so. The numbers won't change, I think changes in the calculation is just that there'll be an additional warning pop up if you do put a project in on the top of Uluru. Let's just now switch to the soil carbon method and we'll run through that quickly. So, we go back to our report card, just reminding where we came from. Here's our farm details page, we drew the boundary around there. Onto next, here's our report card for soil carbon. As for the environmental planting, the EP/Mallee planting's methodology, there's some co-benefits associated with that.

Stephen Roxburgh:

I won't go through that in any detail. And you can have a look at that yourselves on your own time, but because this is the measurement based method, there's no values for the abatement as yet on the report card. And that's because there's a whole raft of different possible management interventions that people can do to build soil carbon. So there's simply no way to guess what a generalised outcome might be. So, we turned that around a little bit and made the abatement be driven by what the user thinks that they might be able to achieve with the given intervention. So, let's have a quick look at that. We click on the estimate button there.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, what's it doing? It's in a bit of a tizz at the moment, because it's actually doing some calculations underneath the hood. What the analysis does, it draws a 100 kilometer radius around the center of the location that was selected and then uses a national soils database to summarise the range of carbon values that are within that region, according to the database. Then that's compared to our paddock, our allocation that we selected. And from that, the user can then decide how much sequestration might be achievable. So, that process is completed there. So, this might make it a little clearer. So, what we've got here is suggesting that within that 100 kilometer radius of that paddock, suggesting that the soil carbon values are typically between 0.9 and about 1.9%. But really most of them are peering between 0.9 and about 1.3%. So, that's quite a narrow range.

Stephen Roxburgh:

You can see that there's one pocket of relatively high percent carbon soil out there. So 2.7%, but that's by far the minority. Most of them are around that 1.1% mark. So, those green bars, that indicates what the range is across the region. Also marked is the value that was picked up for the location that was selected, and that's 1.2%. So, you can see that 1.2% is kind of in the middle of the range for that region. So, how does this all work? Up on the left hand side we've got that 1.2% value presented. Now it's possible that people have their own measurements from their own properties, and they may well differ from what the LOOC-C tool tells you.

Stephen Roxburgh:

If that's the case, then that initial default value can be updated, if required. Just noting that this soil carbon percentage relates to the zero to 30 centimeter soil horizon. It's not just the zero to 10 centimeter. It's the zero to 30 centimeter. We'll pick up on that one in just a moment. The important section is this one at the bottom here, which is the selector for what you think the target soil carbon content might be following the management change following the start of the project.

Stephen Roxburgh:

It starts off at the same level as the current, so 1.2%. And you can see at the top there, that it's saying the Australian carbon credit units is zero. As you increase that slider, those numbers increase. And you can also see that, there we go, it's set at 2%, the target is marked on that figure on the right hand side as well. So, for example, if you were to get brave and put it right up here at 2.7%, you can do that. You get an amount of abatement predicted, but you might want to query that, given that it's a very high carbon percentage given the regional context.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And if you are really keen, you can go as high as you want, and it goes right off the edge of the graph. And you can put it through the roof, not that it is probably sensible. So, let's cut it back to something which might be potentially achievable, let's say 1.5%. Here we go. So, what we are saying is we currently got a soil carbon in the paddock, 1.2%. We're going to do something that might be stubble management, or fertiliser management, or some other thing. And we think we can increase it from 1.2% to 1.5%. Let's have a look at what that does.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Okay. Back to the card, the results are produced. Note also there's a little warning here, and that's saying that less than 20% of the points of the area within that 100 kilometer radius were soil type that was different to the one that's in the paddock, or rather less than 20% points share the same soil type as the paddock that we selected. So, that's just raising a flag to say that maybe these results may not be as reliable as otherwise could be. Just a warning. So, the results are predicted here over the 25 years, at the end of the 25 years, 1,480 tons of carbon dioxide accumulated, responding to an annual rate of 1.82 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, just as we did for the environmental plantings or mallees, I'll just go back to the presentation and have a quick look to see where these numbers come from and what they mean. So, how this works underneath the hood there, is it's relying on a database called the Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia, and in particular two particular products out of that database, the percent soil carbon, obviously, but also the bulk density of the soil, which allows that soil carbon percentage value to be converted into a carbon stock. And again, this is down to 30 centimeters depth, not 10 centimeters, which is often commonly used in agricultural settings.

Stephen Roxburgh:

How this works, I won't go into any of the maths, it's kind of irrelevant, but the bulk density is combined with the carbon content, in this case for the current situation, 1.2%. And that corresponds to, through the calculations, about 190 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare. So, that's the starting stock. By implementing the management change, we said that we're going to increase that from 1.2% to 1.5%. That corresponds to an increase from 190 tons to 235 tons. So, that's the change, that's the sequestration that was achieved. So, that corresponds to about 45 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare.

Stephen Roxburgh:

If we convert that to an annual basis divided by 25, we get that 1.82 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year, which matches up with what's delivered on the LOOC-C interface. So, what the soil carbon calculation is doing is basically taking a starting stock, having a stab at what the stock will be at the end of a 25 year project, and then crediting what that difference is. And if you were to take that 45 tons per year of CO2 and multiply that by the 33 hectares, you'd end up with the 1,500 tons, which is also on the LOOC-C interface there.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Couple of warnings here. So, it might not seem that increasing the soil carbon percentage from 1.2% to 1.5% is very much, but it does correspond to a 21% increase, and a 21% increase in the carbon stock as well. So, it's tempting to look at those low percentage values and say, "Oh, well, I can easily go from 1.2% to 2.4%. I can double the percentage, because it's all so low. But what you're actually saying in that case is you are doubling the soil carbon stock from 190 tons per hectare to 360 tons per hectare, which is an all likelihood, unachievable.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So just a word of caution that you need to be a little bit tuned in to how these percentage values work and what these calculations are actually doing, otherwise it could be easy to come unstuck. So, just to recap before for tidying up. Because the soil carbon method relies on user input, as I suggested, it really sits on the shoulders of the user to make sure that the values that are entered are sensible and realistic. And we thought long and hard about providing some more guidance on this, but we concluded that due to the large number of management options that can be applied under the method and the huge variety of soil types, each of them with their own characteristics and sequestration potentials, that that just really wasn't feasible to do.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, we really did have to leave the tool as it is now. And as I said, that decision is the user's to make. And the other thing to note is that something that I've been noting all the way along, is that the results are reported down to 30 centimeters depth. So, that's to make it consistent with the methodology, but we know that in agricultural speak, people are often more familiar with soil carbon down to 10 centimeters. So, another caution here, because soil carbon change is often concentrated in those surface layers, if you try and apply a percentage carbon change for measurements in the 10 centimeter layer, you'll likely end up with a gross estimate of abatement in LOOC-C if you put those numbers directly into LOOC-C without adjusting them down to 30 centimeters, or reducing them to an appropriate level down to 30 centimeters.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Again, there's no general or easy way to do that, because soils are different and they have different characteristics and different profiles. But again, it's just something to be very aware of. All right, just to finish up, I'll just quickly switched back to the tool. Just a couple of quick things about the interface. On the top right hand corner there, there's a button called "Next Steps" that provides some additional information about the Emissions Reduction Fund, who you might want to talk to next about projects if you wanted to take it a little bit further and so on.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And there's another button there, which is the, "About" button, which provides a little bit more detail about what's going on. And also a few warnings, things to be you aware of. Along with updating the warnings regarding the environmental plantings methodology I mentioned before, we're going to be updating this section as well to put a few more caveats there. And as I said, that should be online within the next week or so. And a button at the bottom, "Get In Touch". Any questions, click on that and send a query through to the LOOC-C team.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Well, that's pretty much it. Just a few summary points here. So, I guess one of the lessons we really learned from this is that it's really important to get engagement early on developing a tool like this. As I said, the talk changed dramatically throughout its evolution, all due to the excellent feedback we got off a whole range of stake holders. As I mentioned, the feedback we got was that the tool needed to be quick and easy to use and simple, noting that it provides, I guess, a generalised estimate of abatement of what you might achieve.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Don't use the tool expecting it to give exactly the value that you might get on your property, because in all likelihood it won't. The abatement estimates are based on a national model, and the national model is right on average across the regions or across the continent, but at any given location it can be quite uncertain. So, it's to be used as a guide and a conversation start perhaps more than relying on this as an exact value of what you might actually get. As I said, we included a co-benefits analysis to help give a gauge of what other benefits might be associated with doing these sorts of projects.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And that's probably it. I've got a link there. Any questions, feel free to send them through to LOOC-C help desk there, or to myself directly. And hopefully I've left enough time for the discussion and questions now. So, that's it. I'll hand it back to Heather and you can do the conducting if you like. Thanks.

Heather Field:

Great. Thank you, Stephen. What a great presentation and a good summary of LOOC-C. And we've had just over 100 people online tuning in, which is terrific. And we have got a number of questions coming through, so I might start on them straight away. I'll just slide up to the top. So, our first question from Carly is have you calculated the total carbon produced per tree or shrub under the reforestation carbon capture program?

Stephen Roxburgh:

No, is the short answer to that. So, the way FullCAM works and the way LOOC-C works is I'd like to call it a green slime model. It doesn't actually have any individuals in there. The units are kind of tons per hectare smeared out across all the different vegetation types and individuals that are in that plot of land. But we can do that. We've got really good, what we call elementary models, that relate stem diameters to individual stem masses. So, that's something that we can do, but LOOC-C doesn't do that.

Heather Field:

Great. Thanks for that. We've got Graham Lean joining us today. And his question is, is it possible for carbon accumulation will accelerate in re-vegetation at high carbon dioxide levels?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yes. Yes, it is. FullCAM doesn't include the carbon dioxide fertilization effect, although that's something that will possibly be included into the future. So, yeah, it's definitely possible. But the thing is the science is a little bit uncertain on how increasing CO2 will actually pan out the ecosystem level. Will it increase the growth rates? Will it increase the maximum potential you could store on that patch of land? Possibly both. Maybe one, maybe the other. Maybe it'll get smeared out, or some of the results that came out of there's an experiment in Western Sydney called Free Air, carbon oxide exchange experiment, FACE experiment. I think that's what it stands for.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Anyway, the results of that were showing that there really wasn't much of a signal thus far in terms of CO2 impact evident in the data. But again, it's kind of uncertain and the data's experimental data, so it's got uncertainty associated with it as well. My expectation is that the CO2 effect is undoubtedly there, but the CO2 has been increasing for a number of years now. So, to some extent the fertilization effect is already inbuilt into the model, because we've been using historical data to feed the model with. But yeah, in the future, we don't really know.

Heather Field:

Okay, great. Thank you. From Graham Anderson, for the revegetation method, could you also use LOOC-C to estimate the likely carbon that is being sequestered by an existing shelter belt or landcare planting?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yeah, I think you could. And the reason I say that is LOOC-C, because it's a generalised tool, it actually assumes average climatic conditions for the growth of the trees. So, you could put a boundary, look up your property, put a boundary around your existing environmental planting, belt planting, and get an estimate of what the growth might have been in the past to get it to the point where it is now. That's entirely usable, yeah.

Heather Field:

Thanks Stephen. David has a question about after the area of the farm is selected, what data does the tool go off and get to populate the model, and does it use SLGA data, remote sensing data, et cetera?

Stephen Roxburgh:

It depends a bit on the method. So, for the default soil method and for the beef herd method, it's picking up statistical local area two level data and doing calculations that are consistent with the national inventory to produce numbers. For the vegetation methods, they were pre-processed using the FullCAM model. So, they're saved as static spatial layers inside LOOC-C, so a user puts in a query and it just takes that location and returns the result for that location.

Stephen Roxburgh:

And as indicated with the soil carbon measurement methodology, it digs into of that The Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia database and does a bespoke analysis for each project, looking at that 100 kilometer radius around each locality. That's why that took a little bit more time to produce a result, it was the spinning dial there, because it was going away doing some calculations in the background. That's really the only methodology that actually does that. The others are really all based on picking up static information and representing it on the LOOC-C interface.

Heather Field:

Okay, good. Thank you. Next question is, is it possible to extend the revegetation carbon plot time period longer than 25 years to see what happens over the longer term?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Not on LOOC-C. LOOC-C's kept at 25 years, as I mentioned. That's a static layer that's in there. To do that kind of thing you'd have to go back to FullCAM itself and set up a FullCAM plot file project and run it that way.

Heather Field:

Great, okay. Now Elby's got a question around what parameters are involved in calculating the average sequestration for vegetation methods, and specifically the estimate outputs from LOOC-C for the environmental mallee planting method. Elby's noted for Bendigo it's around five tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year, Swan Hill's about 10, and based on rainfall, would've expected Bendigo to sequester much less. Any comments on that, Stephen?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yep. So, the FullCAM model, the primary determinant of growth is a parameter called the maximum biomass, and that's an estimate of what might be the maximum amount of storage that could be achieved at any given location. The growth curve is also modified by rainfall and temperature and those sorts of things. That gets simplified into a parameter called the Forest Productivity Index, which varies over time. For LOOC-C we set the Forest Product Index multiply it to be one. So, it doesn't actually have an effect.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, the primary driver in LOOC-C is that maximum biomass estimate. And the fact that one location gives a value, which is probably not as expected as what it might be based on rainfall or local knowledge or whatever. That is probably just a reflection, as I said at the end. It's a continental scale model, so it doesn't get it right everywhere. So, averaged over a large number of sites would get it about right. Any given location is likely to have a level of uncertainty associated with it.

Heather Field:

Thanks Stephen. And Danny has assessed in LOOC-C for soil carbon and believes that some of the soil carbon seems quite high, even twice as high compared to local soil carbon knowledge that's been reflected in on ground testing. So, how have these soil carbon baselines been established to 30 centimeters, and what kind of modeling has been done, and how is it updated, and what is the tolerance levels?

Stephen Roxburgh:

That all sits well outside of LOOC-C, because we were diving into the national database, The Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia. The way that they were developed is they took a large database of observations and then did some spatial modeling to produce a continuous surface for all of Australia. I'm not sure I can add too much more than that because I wasn't involved in any of that work. I'm not really up with the details, but that's broadly how those numbers came about.

Stephen Roxburgh:

So, the LOOC-C tool is totally reliant upon what's sitting inside that national database. Is it wrong in locations? Undoubtedly. The same issue as with the vegetation, it's a continental scale modeling being applied at a very fine resolution. So, at any given location, probably subject to quite high uncertainty. There is uncertainty estimates associated with The Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia. We haven't got those into LOOC-C, but they are available and you can download those to look to see what level of variability around center you might want to expect at a given location.

Heather Field:

Great. And thank you everyone for your questions. They are continuing to roll in, so there's definitely lots of interest, which is good. Scott would like to know how suitable do you think LOOC-C would be for an organization offering a voluntary carbon offset program to assess sites and provide this information back to clients?

Stephen Roxburgh:

In many ways I think that's exactly what LOOC-C is being designed to do, is to do that kind of exploratory work, to do an assessment. And we know that a lot of people are using the tool almost as a communication device, as a conversation starter to say, "Okay, this is the kinds of things that might be achievable," without taking too much notice of the exact amounts coming out, using that as a guide and as the, I guess, the step to the next stage, which might be a more considered and detailed analysis based on the location, landscape position, all that kind of stuff. So, that kind of use case I think is exactly what LOOC-C was developed for.

Heather Field:

Thanks Stephen. And Marion would like to know, can LOOC-C be used by the horticulture industry, or is it more appropriate to crop and stock?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yeah, a really good question. There's no horticultural specific data or calibration sitting inside the FullCAM model, which informs LOOC-C. So, at the moment LOOC-C is either limited to the regeneration of natural vegetation, predominantly woodlands and in the case of the [inaudible 01:01:44] generation or the environmental plantings and mallee plantings. We made a decision not to include plantation forestry in LOOC-C, although we're currently revising that at the moment. Horticulture, I don't know how the numbers would stack up. I suspect it would be a bit of a stretch to use is the environmental mallee planting estimates as that estimate of what you might get in a horticultural setting, given all the intensive management associated with that.

Heather Field:

Okay. And we've got Jeff, similar sort of question, but asking about beef and dairy?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yep. So, we haven't included any of the dairy management options in LOOC-C, predominantly because it's kind of like an area based tool. So, we were looking at the more extensive methods rather than the more intensive methods that are associated with the more intensive milking type enterprises and things like that, which some of those methodologies have been developed. So, the beef one that's there, is the beef management methodology, which is all around reducing the emissions intensity of beef production. So, people are probably aware of the newer technologies coming through, the CB feeds and that sort of thing. They haven't made their way into any sorts of methodologies or anything yet.

Heather Field:

Okay. One that I'm not sure if you can answer or not, but from Vanessa is, is there a minimum acreage suggested for a carbon farming project?

Stephen Roxburgh:

There's a minimum requirement of 0.2 hectares, which is kind of a legal thing, but in reality the areas need to be quite big to make them financially viable. And that's been one of the limitations so far, particularly with the environmental plantings and mallees, because we know that there's quite a lot of opportunity for integrating tree belts into existing farming enterprises. But the limitation has been that per farm, they're quite small areas. So, the challenge is how do you aggregate those across large areas in order to make it a viable option, given the cost associated with registering projects and auditing and all the other things that come with it. So, there's no real constraint on minimum size, but there's quite a heavy practical constraint on the minimum size that could be financially viable.

Heather Field:

Thanks Stephen. And we have hit one o'clock, but we have got four or five more questions on the list here, if you're happy to stay on for another five or so minutes Stephen, to answer those?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yeah, sure.

Heather Field:

Excellent. So, Michelle's got a technical one about soil sampling and measurements. Do the soil sampling measurement method in the Australian database and done now by labs include the root material?

Stephen Roxburgh:

I believe no. I'm not a soil scientist. I believe it's the standard methodology whereby soil is served to two millimeters, so that very fine roots are included as part of soil organic carbon, but anything larger than that gets excluded.

Heather Field:

Okay. And Sally has one for the reforestation example given, have you calculated the ACCU income? What financial outcome might be expected and when?

Stephen Roxburgh:

No, we haven't. And the reason we didn't do that in the tool is because we are on that slippery slope already to be providing financial advice. And in order for the tool to do that, would require a whole heap of pain around getting licenses for providing financial advice. So, we didn't make that step to link the ACCUs to any financial potential benefits. Although it's not difficult for users to do that, because taking the current price of carbon and multiplying it by the ACCU will give you that. And then people know what their own cost structures and things are. So, that's possible to do offline, but it's not part of LOOC-C and probably won't be part of LOOC-C in the future, given the constraints we have around giving financial advice.

Heather Field:

Thanks Stephen. Ellie is wondering if the model considers any climate change projections and their impacts on capturing soil carbon?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Nope. Great idea. We would love to have something like that, but at this stage, no. To fit that into LOOC-C would probably be relatively straightforward technically, because what you would probably do is run a whole lot of complicated modeling offline and then simplify that, distill it down to something that could be ingested into LOOC-C. So, we haven't done that, but it's possible.

Heather Field:

Okay. And can a LOOC-C program be used for capturing carbon in water? Is it more for practices currently listed?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yeah. LOOC-C is totally limited to those list of seven activities that are part of the ERF catalog at the moment.

Heather Field:

Yeah. Okay. And can we export any data out of LOOC-C?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yep. The reports can be saved as a PDF. That, I believe, is the only data that's able to be saved, and no data is stored either in the background. So, there's no way to save an analysis for coming back too later. Again, that was around concerns we had around ensuring privacy of people's information, that kind of thing. So, we thought it was easier not to go down that road and just provide it as basically an instantaneous tool. Part of the reason for making it quick and easy to use as well.

Heather Field:

Great. And our final question from Grant is can this model support regenatory farming, permaculture, or biodynamic, or bioremediation?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yeah, excellent question. I would say not at this stage, because it is kind of narrowly defined to those particular activities specified in the methodologies, but I mean the next generation of carbon farming methodologies, if we can get some of those regenerative ag ideas embedded into that, then it's something for the future, for sure.

Heather Field:

Okay, terrific. All right. Well, thank you everyone for those questions and a big thank you to Stephen for giving up your time today and a great outline of LOOC-C. What I might do before we close out, I will pop in the chat box, if I can find it, your email address. I'll do that now while I remember. And if anyone does have any follow up questions, you're happy to receive those?

Stephen Roxburgh:

Yeah, sure.

Heather Field:

So, I'll just pop that in the chat, so hopefully everyone can see that now. So, it is just after one o'clock so we will close out the webinar now. And everyone who did register for today's webinar will receive an email with the recording and some details for future webinars. So, make sure you check out your inbox from an email from us. And as I mentioned earlier, we do have a short survey at the end of when you close out of today's webinar. So, we do appreciate if you can complete that.

Heather Field:

And I just want to, again, thank you Stephen for your time and your presentation, and we've got lots of great thanks and chats coming in, in the chat box if you want to check those out before you close out today. So, I think it's been a great webinar, definitely lots of interest in a confusing topic. And there is lot of carbon confusion out there, so I think LOOC-C does help with this as a good starting point. So, thank you everyone for joining us today and have a good afternoon.

Stephen Roxburgh:

Great, thanks Heather, and thanks again for the opportunity.

Heather Field:

Thanks Stephen.

Page last updated: 25 Oct 2022