Michael Doherty

PhD Student

Research interests

Vegetation Dynamics and Large Landscape Fires: Species Persistence and Trends in Species Richness, Species Composition and Vegetation Structure

While the economic and social impacts of large landscape fires in south eastern Australia is, arguably, well known, the effects of such fires on plant species persistence, plant species richness, vegetation composition and vegetation structure have not been well studied due to a lack of adequate before and after quantitative studies.

Such large unplanned landscape fires tend to be infrequent in alpine, subalpine, montane and associated plant communities in south-eastern Australia but when these fires do occur, they are often widespread in the landscape and burn extensive areas at high intensity. The fire events of 1938-1939 and 2003 in the Australian Alps conform to such a pattern and my research is utilising data collected in the northern Brindabella area to the west of Canberra before and after the 2003 fire event to investigate mechanisms of plant species persistence, to examine patterns of plant species richness before and after fire and to track changes in species composition and structure within plant communities over time after fire. The research is investigating these questions in the context of the concept of the fire regime and succession theory including the ‘initial floristic composition’ model and the ‘intermediate disturbance’ hypothesis.