Nav: Home

Burning desire comes down to beetles

August 17, 2016

New Griffith University research could influence how often prescribed burning is conducted after it was found high frequency fires (i.e. every 2 years) could disrupt nutrient cycling and modify beetle populations in some forest ecosystems.

"It's about conserving and understanding the whole system and finding the right burning frequency, not just for the bigger trees, but the insects and microbes as well. Too frequent as well as too infrequent fire can be problematic and this research may help to better inform fire frequency management," says PhD researcher Orpheus Butler.

Mr Butler, a member of Professor Chengrong Chen's Environmental Biogeochemistry Research Lab, has been studying how fire affects the balance and cycling of elements like carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in forest ecosystems and how these effects are linked to the changes in the structure and function of plant, animal and microbial communities brought about by burning.

The South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium has awarded Mr Butler a Research Student Scholarship to undertake ground breaking fire research, which will be presented at its Bushfire 2016 national conference, on 28-29 September at the University of Queensland.

Bushfire 2016 will be an engaging, informative and inspiring conference squarely aimed at connecting Australia's best fire scientists, ecologists and students with on ground fire operators, public land managers and private land owners.

Part of Mr Butler's PhD work looks at how the nitrogen and phosphorus in soil and plant litter is modified by frequent fire.

"We think the altered nutrient balance in soil will be reflected in the plant material and this may be linked to altered rates of plant growth. It affects different plants in different ways because some plants need relatively more nitrogen, and some need more phosphorus" he says.

"Both elements are essential for plant growth."

A study in Peachester Forest, near Woodford, found that the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in leaf litter and microbes were very different in the most frequently burned part of the forest.

The effects may have important consequences for the invertebrate fauna on the forest floor, given that many of these animals depend on organic material in soil and litter as a source of food.

Mr Butler says soil and litter invertebrates represent an enormous proportion of forest biodiversity and contribute to litter decomposition, which influences fuel loads future fire risk, intensity and spread.

Some invertebrates, particularly beetles, are used as indicators of ecosystem health or resilience to disturbance.

"These are all parts of a bigger system. People tend to focus on things they can see but that's not all that's going on."

The study will enhance knowledge of fundamental ecological processes, improve the ability to use invertebrates as indicators of appropriate prescribed burning frequencies, and thereby assist in the management of forested landscapes, assessment of fire risk and species conservation.

Bushfire 2016 offers two days of concurrent sessions featuring internationally recognised keynote speakers, including Professor Ross Bradstock from the University of Wollongong and Associate Professor Alan York from Melbourne University. The program covers ten different themes, including fire risk, fire ecology, climate change, Indigenous fire practices, land management and community partnerships and is complimented by a catered poster session on the Wednesday evening, an informal dinner on the Thursday night and two field trips on the Friday.

Dr Samantha Lloyd, Manager of the Consortium, says, "We are thrilled with the support we are receiving for Bushfire 2016. The program features over 75 talks and has something for everyone. Whether you are a researcher or practitioner, our aim is to provide a broad range of fantastic presentations that help bridge the gap between research and on ground fire practice".
-end-
For more information visit http://www.fireandbiodiversity.org.au/bushfire-2016

Griffith University

Related Nitrogen Articles:

How nitrogen-fixing bacteria sense iron
New research reveals how nitrogen-fixing bacteria sense iron - an essential but deadly micronutrient.
Corals take control of nitrogen recycling
Corals use sugar from their symbiotic algal partners to control them by recycling nitrogen from their own ammonium waste.
Foraging for nitrogen
As sessile organisms, plants rely on their ability to adapt the development and growth of their roots in response to changing nutrient conditions.
Inert nitrogen forced to react with itself
Direct coupling of two molecules of nitrogen: chemists from Würzburg and Frankfurt have achieved what was thought to be impossible.
Researchers discover new nitrogen source in Arctic
Scientists have revealed that the partnership between an alga and bacteria is making the essential element nitrogen newly available in the Arctic Ocean.
More Nitrogen News and Nitrogen Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...