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Mr Aaron Brace

Overview of thesis

Shifting soil fungal communities in response to fire and weed management in urban Banksia woodlands

Issues arising from habitat fragmentation such as extirpation and loss of biodiversity are exacerbated by a warming and drying climate, land use changes and non-native species invasion. To maintain biodiversity various management methods are employed, methods such as prescribing fires or herbicide application. Many of these strategies are macroorganism focused, with less attention paid to microorganisms. Soil fungi play instrumental roles in ecosystem function, yet in many ecosystems not much is known about how soil fungi interact with plants to influence their survival and persistence. Ecosystems such as the Swan Coastal Plain’s endangered Banksia woodland, where active fire and weed management are undertaken is one such ecosystem where there is a gap in the knowledge.

This project will examine soil fungal communities through different fire intervals, post fire succession, weed and fire management. Soils will be collected from Banksia woodland sites across the Swan Coastal Plain under differing fire and weed management treatments. A glasshouse trail will also be run to examine the impact of different herbicide applications on soil fungi. For all studies, fungal communities will be examined using high throughput sequencing, grouped into operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and assigned putative function where possible. Comparisons between sites and treatments will be made and functional changes in fungal communities can be observed. Parallels can be drawn with changes occurring in plant communities, for an inference of co-occurrence/interactions between plant and fungal communities.

This work occupies a novel space as no study has investigated the combined effects of fire management and herbicide application on the soil fungi community in Banksia woodland. This project will fit well into the wider research on the Banksia woodland, providing knowledge in an area that has otherwise been poorly studied. This knowledge can then be used to better inform management decisions and aid in conservation measures.

Qualifications

  • Bsc (Hons) Environmental biology 2:1, University of Plymouth (2012-2016)

Supervisors

Dr Joe Fontaine (Murdoch University)
Dr Katinka Ruthrof (DBCA)
Dr Ben Miller (DBCA)

Contact

Mr Aaron Brace
PhD Student
Centre for Ecosystem Management
School of Science
Joondalup Campus, 19.375
Mobile: 0414610303
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