Microbial clues for ecologically sustainable management of fire-prone landscapes

Fire creates spatial patterns and is in turn affected by spatial patterns of past fires. These patterns have implications for key ecological processes of water, carbon and nutrient cycling, and may also help regulate biodiversity. Productivity, carbon and nutrient cycling are intrinsically linked to fuel loads and patterning of litter (fuel) within the landscape and therefore to the spread of future fires; all key cycling processes are mediated by the microbial community.

From a landscape ecology perspective, fire is often considered as a ‘contagious disturbance with memory’. The memory of fire-prone landscapes results from the effect of past fire disturbances on the propagation of future fires. It is this system memory that allows for the formation of stable patch mosaics. In this context, we need a better understanding of the processes and feedback mechanisms that drive and control the recovery of vegetation, litter, and fuels post fire. My research focuses on the role of microbes

Why my research is important?

Fire plays an integral role in the ecology and management of the natural ecosystems in the south-west of Western Australia. Little is documented on changes in ecosystem processes in response to different fire management regimes and how such responses may vary spatially and temporally.

I am applying novel techniques to gain a greater understanding of the complexity, resilience, and landscape pattern of the structural and functional attributes of microbial communities in association with different fire regimes. My project also contributes to the Bushfire CRC Project B4.2: Multi-scale analysis of patterns in ecological processes in relation to fire regimes.

Related News

Bushfire CRC PhD students at the AFAC and Bushfire CRC conference in Perth, 2012
The Bushfire CRC scholarship program has so far produced 45 PhD graduates—with more to graduate in the next few years—ensuring the future of Australian fire research.

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