Can landscape structures enhance the resilience of biodiversity to climatic extremes? Insights from the Millennium Drought

This project will answer a question of fundamental importance to applied ecology in the 21st century: can land managers build landscapes that can enhance resilience of biodiversity to climatic extremes? To answer this question, this project will build on long term data on avifauna from 24 study landscapes during south-eastern Australia’s ‘Millennium Drought’ (2001-2009) which looked specifically at the influence of the drought on woodland birds in Box Ironbark forests. This research will address one of Australia’s most pressing extinction crises: the rapid decline of south-eastern Australia’s avifauna and of woodland birds in particular. Unaddressed we may see a wave of avifaunal extinctions across south-eastern Australia unparalleled in Australia’s history.

Collaborators: Andrew Bennett, Jim Radford, Angie Haslem

Project support: DELWP, Hermon Slade Foundation

Optimal monitoring of mammal communities

This project is examining the capacity of monitoring  programs to detect changes in the distributions of mammal species. Working in the Tiwi Islands (north of the Australian mainland) and the southern tip of mainland Australia (Wilson’s Prom), we are monitoring mammal communities and using power analysis to reveal approaches to monitoring that maximise chances of detecting changes in species’ occupancy  (accounting for uncertain detection) and asking how much investment programs is required to maintain powerful m monitoring programs.

Collaborators: Euan Ritchie, Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita, Emily Nicholson, Brett Murphy

Project support: Parks Victoria


Predicting the flow-on effects of fire management: fire and trophic ecology in semi-arid Australia 

This project is exploring the interactions between fire and predation in Victoria’s remote Big Desert region. Beginning in 2013, the project has been sampling mammal communities in fire mosaics spread across the region to examine the relative influence of fire and biotic interactions in shaping the distribution of species and the structure of mammal communities. Combining landscape-scale field ecology, small-scale experiments and scenario modelling, this project aims to enhance our ability to predict the flow-on effects of fire management that arise due to species interactions.

Collaborators: Euan Ritchie, Tim Doherty

Project support: DELWP


Mallee fire ecology projects

This long-term project was initiated during the Mallee Fire and Biodiversity Project. The Mallee Fire and Biodiversity Project was designed to determine the ecological importance of fire in semi-arid mallee landscapes. Mallee vegetation extends across vast areas of southern Australia; it is highly fire-prone, and it supports many unique and threatened species. We collaborated with government agencies, private landowners, and leading conservation organisations from three states (New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia) to study fire and biodiversity in a 104,000 km2 area of the Murray Mallee region. Our novel study compared biodiversity in ‘whole’ landscapes, each four km in diameter and representing different fire-driven mosaics. Working with agency staff and over 100 volunteers, we collected one of the world’s largest empirical datasets on fire and biota. We then rigorously tested theories underlying ecological fire management by using innovative analytical techniques. Current projects are moving beyond the effects of fire on species to ask how other factors modulate the impact of fire (e.g. herbivory, predation, climate).

Collaborators: Andrew Bennett, Mike Clarke, Angie Haslem, Luke Kelly, Simon Watson, Sarah Avitabile, Lisa Farnsworth,


Grampians fire and biodiversity project

This project is investigating how species respond to fire history and climatic fluctuations in the Grampians National Park (southeastern Australia). Together with collaborators at Deakin University, we have been monitoring this fire-prone ecosystem annually since 2008. Over that time, the region has been in the grips of extreme drought followed by extensive flooding, as well as experience three larger (>10, 000ha) fires since 2006 that have burned >90%of the park. This makes the Grampians a natural experiment in the forecasted impacts of climate change on southern Australian ecosystems. We are examining how species’ respond to fire history over long (50+ years) time-frames, how those responses differ under different climatic phases (i.e. during droughts, floods), and how such variation impacts on the optimal approach to fire management.

Collaborators: John White, Raylene Cooke

Project support: Parks Victoria