Environment Institute

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders presented her Inaugural Lecture ‘Hard data’ at the recent Research Tuesdays Seminar Series.

Bronwyn’s lecture exploring the fascinating ecological and environmental insights being revealed by marine organisms’ hard body parts can be viewed below:

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Soils damage sets back bushfire recovery

Soils in areas hit by bushfires like the Sampson Flat fire may take several years to recover, say University of Adelaide soil scientists starting a new study into the effects of bushfires on soils.

“Bushfire not only burns the vegetation above ground, but also organic matter in the soil,” says Professor Petra Marschner, soil scientist with the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

“Nearly all organic carbon and nitrogen on the surface and top few centimetres of the soil is lost during bushfires. Since most soil organisms live in these layers, many are killed during the fire.

“Natural ecosystems rely on soil processes where leaves and other organic material are broken down by organisms such as beetles, ants, earthworms, bacteria and fungi, releasing nutrients into the soil to be taken up by again by plants. Fire interrupts this cycle.

“The question we are trying to answer is how long it takes before soil processes are restored to levels prior to the fire. This is likely to be influenced by several factors such as fire intensity, soil and vegetation type and climate with a hot fire, like parts of Sampson Flat, having stronger and longer lasting effects than a cooler fire.”

PhD student Erinne Stirling is comparing soil samples from both pine and native forests taken from low-intensity burn, high-intensity burn and unburnt areas at six sites in the Sampson Flat region to analyse the effect of the fire on the soil. She will assess changes over the next three years and will also sample at different times during the year to assess seasonal effects.

“Soils change throughout the year and have different properties in the winter when it’s cool and wet compared to the hot and dry summer,” Ms Stirling says.

Ms Stirling is measuring the amount of organic matter in the soil, the amount of CO2 that’s released (which gives an estimate of microbe activity) and the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus.

“By studying nutrient cycling in soils after the fire, we will have a clearer understanding of how long it takes for soil functions to recover and what factors influence the recovery,” says Professor Marschner. “By linking this to plant recovery, we can better understand why plants and ecosystems recover more slowly in some areas than in others.

“Understanding the link between soil, plant and ecosystem recovery will help in the development of management strategies to aid regeneration of plant and animal species and maintain diversity.”

The research is in collaboration with fellow University of Adelaide researchers Associate Professor Tim Cavagnaro and Professor Wayne Meyer. It is supported by the Nature Foundation SA and the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment.

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Rebecca Boulton and the Black-eared Miner Recovery Team need a number of enthusiastic volunteers to help walk transects throughout the Riverland Biosphere to record miners and other threatened mallee birds. They are attempting to repeat extensive surveys that were completed back in 2000-02 and again in 2007 using distance sampling to take a snap-shot of miner densities in specific areas of the Biosphere Reserve. This will give some indication of how the species is recovering from the 118,000ha fire that burnt through the Biosphere in 2006.

No black-eared miner experience is necessary, as volunteers will only be required to count the number of miners detected along each transect. General bird identification skills will be beneficial. Volunteers will need to have a good level of fitness and be proficient with using a GPS as transects will require walking 4-5km off dirt tracks, walking up to 10km.

Volunteers will be required to travel to Gluepot Reserve independently. Some car-pooling will be possible during the surveys, however, the use of personal vehicles may be necessary due to the survey sites dispersion across the Biosphere. Accommodation will be camping at the Gluepot Reserve designated campsites.

This is a great opportunity to visit Gluepot Reserve, walking extensive areas in these mallee habitats is the best way to see all of those other mallee specialists.

Contact: please contact Rebecca if you are interested or require more information on 0468 717 404 or rlboulton@gmail.com
When: 11-16 September 2015 (volunteers not required for the whole period) with another possible survey in October
Where: Gluepot Reserve, South Australia

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Image source: birdway.com.au

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What will our oceans of the future look like? Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken from the University of Adelaide spoke to Radio Adelaide‘s Sarah Martin about his research looking at fish behaviour and marine habitat around carbon dioxide vents in a bid to forecast how marine environments respond to future increases in carbon dioxide. Listen to […]

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Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute was interviewed by The Lead about his research into the effects of ocean acidification on marine environments. The research undertaken by Ivan Nagelkerken, Bayden Russell, Bronwyn Gillanders and Sean Connell, has been published in Nature Climate Change. The study details how predicted ocean acidification from climate […]

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Professor Sean Connell from the University of Adelaide was one of the authors on a collaborative article among six scientists across Southern Australia published in The Conversation. The article highlights the need to increase awareness of the true value of the Great Southern Reef so that it can be managed effectively now and for future […]

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University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences PhD student, Sophie Harrison, has discovered several new species of trapdoor spiders through her research. Sophie spoke with The Sound of Science about her work on a family of trapdoor spiders and her hope to use this research to protect these newly identified species of spiders. Listen to the […]

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The Sound of Science spoke with marine biologist Dr Zoe Doubleday from the University of Adelaide about her research using hard calcified tissues, such as bones, shells and teeth of marine and fresh water animals to gain a better understanding of how those animals lived, how they are affected by changes in their environment, and how […]

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Inaugural lecture by Professor Bronwyn Gillanders – The fascinating ecological and environmental insights being revealed by marine organisms’ hard body parts. Although marine waters present a challenging research environment, the remarkable data obtained there by the University of Adelaide’s Professor Bronwyn Gillanders and her team has proven well worth the effort. Studying the hard structures of […]

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A world-first underwater study of fish in their natural environment by University of Adelaide marine ecologists has shown how predicted ocean acidification from climate change will devastate temperate marine habitats and biodiversity. Published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers used natural CO2 underwater seeps to study how entire ecosystems have been impacted […]

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