Come follow our adventures @fireecologyandbiodiversity
We're gearing up for a bumper field season and Simeon is seeking volunteers to help with his research into mammals, fire and fragmentation in the Mount Lofty Ranges near Adelaide. Field trips will involve habitat surveys, and/or setting up cameras and hair tube traps.
Please contact Simeon if you're keen to help out or would like further information, and keep your eyes on the facebook page for updates on volunteer opportunities.
Saumya deployed 5 small pitfall traps at 112 sites near Casterton during the summer field season, and now faces the daunting task of sorting through the sample jars with Julio's help.
Enthusiasm levels are high thanks to a funky orange clover mite (Bryobia spp.), who they found in one of the first sample jars. Clover mites are relatives of spiders and bed bugs, and only females are likely to appear in samples because they reproduce via parthenogenesis, meaning an unfertilised egg can develop into an embryo.
Saumya is interested in how fire history and insect biomass affect the abundance of insect-eating small mammals, like yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes). Sadly for the clover mite, she is just a meal (or perhaps a snack) from an antechinus's perspective.
Stay tuned for further updates on cool microscopic critters.
Congratulations to Sandra, Simeon and Rachel for their engaging oral and poster presentations, and to Matt for his role as MC in the fire ecology session.
The biennial Biodiversity Across the Borders Conference is hosted by Federation University, only a stone's throw from us in Mt Helen, south of Ballarat. This year's conference theme was Climate Change and Future Landscapes, and provided an excellent opportunity to share emerging applied research among a broad audience comprising natural resource managers, the research community and conservation enthusiasts.
Following a successful PhD confirmation seminar last week, Simeon plans to hit the field over the next few months to deploy wildlife cameras in South Australia's Mount Lofty Ranges.
Please find details below, and contact Simeon for more information.
In our new paper , which formed part of Matt Chick's PhD, we used a landscape succession and disturbance simulation model to estimate changes in vegetation diversity under alternative scenarios of planned fire and wildfire over a 60-year period.
We surveyed vegetation diversity among different post-fire growth stages in heathy woodland, and used optimisation to determine the proportions of growth stages that would maximise species diversity. Pairing optimisation with the simulation model allowed us to identify the cumulative effects of different fire-regime scenarios on vegetation diversity.
The best scenario for vegetation diversity was 5% prescribed burning per year (with and without wildfire) which resulted in diversity values close to the theoretical maximum. Trends across the 60 years showed that wildfire depressed diversity and subsequent prescribed fire drove recovery within 15 years. The largest threat to vegetation diversity was the absence of fire.
Our method provides a flexible platform for developing long‐term fire management strategies that seek to balance human safety and biodiversity conservation.
Find out more: Chick, M., York, A., Sitters, H., Di Stefano, J. & Nitschke, C. (in press). The cumulative impacts of prescribed burning and wildfire on vegetation diversity. Journal of Applied Ecology.
A multi-faceted team of reptile, mammal and bat-trappers recently headed out west for a week of fieldwork highs, disappointments and everything in between.
In terms of animal numbers, Taylor and Holly's sites were most bountiful, with 35 reptiles falling into pitfall or funnel traps. Microbats appeared in Amanda's harp traps in dribs and drabs until she hit a bumper night of 19 animals, resulting in 25 for the week. A very promising start to the season although microbat ID makes peering at skink scales seem terribly straight forward.
One thousand two hundred and fifty Elliott-trap nights yielded one very special Yellow-footed Antechinus plus two mildly confused Shinglebacks. We are hopeful that Amy, Rachel, Saumya and Julian's mammoth efforts will be rewarded soon, and that the low trap success reflects the time of year. Kelvin experienced similarly low animal numbers this time last year, and Rachel had heath mice coming out of her ears during her pilot study in March.
We're currently seeking volunteers for our programme of almost back-to-back trapping over the next few months. Food, basic accommodation, and transport from Ballarat or Creswick are provided. Please let us know if you're interested, and keep an eye on the facebook page for details of specific trips.
Our new paper arose from Hilman Sukma's Masters research, and highlights the importance of structurally complex vegetation for mammal functional diversity.
Hilman used wildlife cameras to survey mammals in the Otway Ranges, and combined species occurrence data with ecological trait information to derive measures of functional diversity, which provides a link between species diversity and ecosystem function.
Mammal functional diversity responded positively to two measures of vegetation structural complexity in both wet and dry forest. Hilman concluded that conserving structurally complex vegetation may help to enhance ecosystem function.
The paper is free to download until 22 December:
Sukma, H., Di Stefano, J., Swan, M. & Sitters, H. (2019). Mammal functional diversity increases with vegetation structural complexity in two forest types. Forest Ecology and Management. 433: 85-92
Fire Ecology and Biodiversity at UniMelb
Bushfire Behaviour and Management at UniMelb
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group at UniMelb
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Research at UniMelb