School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences - Theses

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    Ecosystem goods and services in production landscapes in south-eastern Australia
    BARAL, HIMLAL ( 2013)
    Ecosystem goods and services (EGS), the benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems, are vital for human well-being. As human populations increase so do demands for almost all EGS. Managing changing landscapes for multiple EGS is therefore a key challenge for resource planners and decision makers. However, in many cases the supply of different types of goods and services can conflict. For example, the enhancement of provisioning services can lead to declines in regulating and cultural services, but there are few tools available for analysing these trade-offs in a spatially-explicit way. This thesis developed approaches and tools for spatially explicit measurement and management of multiple EGS provided by production landscapes. These were used to assess the impacts of land-use change and to provide a basis for managing these trade-offs using case studies in two contrasting production landscapes in south-eastern Australia. Both landscapes have been subject to extensive clearing of native vegetation, which is now present in remnant patches. One study landscape had a concentration of commercially-valuable hardwood and softwood plantations, and the other was dominated by land traditionally focused on agricultural production that is currently being re-configured to provide for more sustainable farming practices and to increase provision of multiple ecosystem services. The study involved five components: (i) development of a novel, qualitative approach for rapid assessment of EGS in changing landscapes that was used to assess observed and potential changes in land use and land cover and their impact on the production of different EGS (Chapter 2); (ii) development and testing of an approach for assessing multiple EGS across space and time using a case study of six key EGS in a sub-catchment in Lower Glenelg Basin, south-western Victoria that demonstrated landscape-scale trade-offs between provisioning and many regulating services (Chapter 3); (iii) an economic valuation of EGS using market and non-market techniques to produce spatial economic value maps (Chapter 4); (iv) spatial assessment of the biodiversity values that underpin provision of many ecosystem services utilising a variety of readily available data and tools (Chapter 5); and (v) assessment of trade-offs and synergies among multiple EGS under current land use and realistic future land-use scenarios (Chapter 6). Results indicate that EGS can be assessed and mapped in a variety of ways depending on the availability of data, time, and funding as well as level of detail and accuracy required. A qualitative assessment can be useful for an initial investigation (Chapter 2) while quantitative and monetary assessments may be required for detailed landscape-scale planning (Chapters 3, 4). In addition, the provision of EGS by production landscapes can vary considerably depending on land use and land cover, and management choices. The study demonstrates that landscapes dedicated mostly to agricultural production have limited capacity to produce the range of ecosystem services required for human health and well-being, while landscapes with a mosaic of land uses can produce a wide range of services, although these are often subject to trade-offs between multiple EGS (Chapters 2, 3). Furthermore, the study demonstrated that spatial assessment and mapping of biodiversity value plays a vital role in identifying key areas for conservation and establishing conservation priorities to allocate limited resources (Chapter 5). There is potential for an improved balance of the multiple EGS required for human health and well-being at the landscape scale, although the economic incentive to adopt more sustainable land use practices that produce a wide range of services are compromised due to the lack of economic valuation of public ecosystem services (Chapter 6). High hopes have been placed by researchers on spatial assessment, mapping and economic valuations of ecosystem goods and services to influence policy makers for coping with the accelerating degradation of natural capital. The approaches and tools used in this thesis can potentially enhance our collective choices regarding the management of landscapes for multiple values and can help policy makers and land managers to enhance the total benefits that landscapes provide to societies through the provision of an optimal mix of goods and services.
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    The effects of fire on bark habitats and associated beetle assemblages
    Heaver, Andrew Martyn ( 2013)
    Structurally complex habitats can often support more diverse animal assemblages than simpler habitats. Additionally, changes in habitat structure can alter assemblage composition. Structural changes can occur due to fire, and over time since last fire (TSLF), which may have implications for biodiversity management in fire-prone environments. The bark of Eucalyptus trees is readily modified by fire, but also provides habitat for a diverse fauna, including beetles (order Coleoptera). In a fire-prone forest type in south-east Australia, hypothesised relationships between TSLF, bark complexity and bark-associated beetle assemblages were investigated on two bark types: fibrous bark (typified by Eucalyptus obliqua) and ribbon bark (smooth bark that peels to form loose ‘ribbons’, typified by E. cypellocarpa). The research involved both a long-term (chronosequence ranging from 1 to 72 years postfire) and a short-term component (treatment-control study, comparing sites < 1 year post-fire with sites that had not been burnt for 27 years). Based on ecological theory it was expected that habitat complexity would change with TSLF, and that biodiversity would respond to complexity. The chronosequence study investigated whether bark complexity increased with TSLF; whether beetle richness and Simpson’s diversity relates to bark complexity and/or TSLF; whether TSLF affects assemblage composition; and whether assemblage responses to complexity were stronger than to TSLF. Bark-associated beetles were collected and a range of bark variables were assessed from study trees (of both bark types) at sites belonging four TSLF categories (1- 5 years; 27 – 29 years; 43 – 49 years; 72 years). Several aspects of bark complexity on fibrous-barked trees related to TSLF, but none on ribbon-barked trees. On fibrous-barked trees, Simpson’s diversity (but not richness) correlated modestly with the one element of bark complexity (surface cover of loose bark flaps), but with no others, nor with TSLF. On ribbon-barked trees, richness (but not Simpson’s diversity) was modestly related to the surface cover of loose ‘ribbons’. No other relationships with bark complexity or TSLF were found. On neither bark type was a TSLF effect on assemblage composition apparent; with many common morphospecies detectable throughout the chronosequence. Composition did not differ between the two bark types, and many morphospecies used both, suggesting that many beetles in this system can tolerate substantial differences in bark structure. The short-term comparative study was adopted in order to clarify the effects of very recent fire on bark complexity, and because some fire effects on beetle assemblages were anticipated to be short-lived (< 1 year). Burnt sites were found to have less complex bark than unburnt sites, and differences in assemblage composition (but not richness or Simpson’s diversity) were detected. Despite the detection of short-term compositional differences, the lack of longer term differences, and paucity of strong relationships with complexity, suggested that these assemblages were resilient, rather than responsive, to fire-related habitat change. This was contrary to hypothesised relationships between structural complexity and biodiversity, but consistent with suggestions that assemblages in fire-prone regions will exhibit a degree of resilience to fire impacts.