Friday, 25 April 2014

Karina Salmon - Hons 2013/14 - Role of fire in non-Themeda grasslands

Last year I completed my Bachelor of Science (Conservation Biology and Ecology) at La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia. I am currently undertaking Honours in the Botany Department at La Trobe University under the supervision of Dr. John Morgan.


I am interested in grassland ecology and the role that fire plays in these highly threatened systems, particularly its use to improve conservation outcomes.

With 35+ years of knowledge gained from fire studies in Themeda triandra grasslands, my Honours research aims to investigate the impacts of fire not only in T. triandra-dominated grasslands, but in other grassland types. The core of my research is to uncover whether fire as a positive management tool in one grassland type can be transferred to other systems, namely that of C3 grasslands which contain a different suite of plant species and have different management histories (grazing and fire suppression).  Most importantly, I aim to determine what factors influence survival of the dominant grass species (size of tussocks, grassland composition pre-fire, the number of grass tillers etc.) and assess recovery of these species post fire. Along with this, my work will also characterize fire events in these two grassland types and will contribute knowledge to the few studies that have looked at fire behaviour in grasslands in south-eastern Australia. This is inherently linked to my key question and will address whether the actual fire event, or, the individual species and composition of the grassland pre-fire determine survival post-fire. Answering these two key questions will contribute knowledge to the resilience of different grassland types to fire and will assist managers in using fire as a positive management tool into the future.


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