In the Pipeline

What we are working on now, and what’s coming out next? We’ve had two papers accepted for publication in the past month, which is fantastic, and these will come out later this year. Both papers raise some really interesting ecological issues, which I’ll describe in more detail in a later blog.

Natural regeneration by native shrubs and trees in central Victoria.

The first paper, led by Luke Geddes, describes an area in central Victoria, where native plants have regenerated across 1000s of hectares, after hobby farms replaced agricultural land use. We suggested that this may be ‘Victoria’s largest example of landscape recovery’, although others may beg to differ.

The second paper is based on Janet Cohn’s PhD work. It shows how dense patches of white cypress-pine (Callitris species) can reduce the intensity of wildfires, provided that the fires aren’t too intense. This may sound a bit surprising, since dense trees often promote, rather than reduce, fire intensity.

A few more papers are nearing completion. As always, I’m juggling a handful of papers, each with a different group of students and colleagues. It always feels like there’s lots of balls up in the air, and that each falls to the ground (finished and accepted) far too slowly. But gradually the final papers emerge.

Suzanne Prober, John Morgan and I are ‘this close’ to finishing a big review about how fire regimes affect the ecology of native grasslands and woodlands in southern Australia. This will be published in a new edition of the fantastic book, ‘Flammable Australia’, edited by Ross Bradstock and colleagues. The review synthesizes lots of research by many great ecologists, and the new edition of the book will be great to read.

Black Cypress-pine (Callitris endlicheri) seedlings, regenerating after a wildfire at Mt Pilot in north-east Victoria.

Two other papers on native cypress-pines (or Callitris species) are well underway. In one paper, Karen Ross and the team are examining whether widespread ring barking (or tree clearing) may have been an important trigger for the widespread wave of dense Callitris regeneration that occurred in the late 1800s. Karen developed some sophisticated modelling software to tease apart how different processes affected regeneration. This has let us examine this issue in a way that wasn’t possible before.

In the 2nd study, I’m working with Heidi Zimmer and David Cheal, from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research in Melbourne, to compare how Callitris and Eucalyptus species regenerated after a severe wildfire. This is important to know as Callitris seedlings are easily killed by fires, so regenerating plants will be vulnerable to future fires.

And, for something completely different, I’m finalizing a manuscript with a team of people who attended a workshop late last year on ‘managed relocation’ or ‘assisted migration’. Our manuscript discusses how managed relocations might be used to help maintain declining ecological processes as climate change progresses. This is bound to be a challenging issue for ecosystem managers in the future.

That’s all for now. If things go well, we should be able to finish and submit all three papers to journals in the next month or two. So, hopefully, we’ll have a few more great papers out in the near future. Stay tuned for more updates!

These two papers will come out later in 2011. Please keep an eye out for them at the journal’s web sites, or send me an email if you’d like a pre-print copy (in MS Word):

Cohn JS, Lunt ID, Ross KA & Bradstock RA (2011). How do slow-growing, fire-sensitive conifers survive in flammable eucalypt woodlands? Journal of Vegetation Science, in press.

Geddes L, Lunt ID, Smallbone L & Morgan JW (2011) Old field colonization by native trees and shrubs following land use change: could this be Victoria’s largest example of landscape recovery? Ecological Management and Restoration, in press.

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