University General - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 781
What controls the distribution of tropical forest and savanna?
Forest and savanna biomes dominate the tropics, yet factors controlling their distribution remain poorly understood. Climate is clearly important, but extensive savannas in some high rainfall areas suggest a decoupling of climate and vegetation. In some situations edaphic factors are important, with forest often associated with high nutrient availability. Fire also plays a key role in limiting forest, with fire exclusion often causing a switch from savanna to forest. These observations can be captured by a broad conceptual model with two components: (1) forest and savanna are alternative stable states, maintained by tree cover-fire feedbacks, (2) the interaction between tree growth rates and fire frequency limits forest development; any factor that increases growth (e.g. elevated availability of water, nutrients, CO(2)), or decreases fire frequency, will favour canopy closure. This model is consistent with the range of environmental variables correlated with forest distribution, and with the current trend of forest expansion, likely driven by increasing CO(2) concentrations. Resolving the drivers of forest and savanna distribution has moved beyond simple correlative studies that are unlikely to establish ultimate causation. Experiments using Dynamic Global Vegetation Models, parameterised with measurements from each continent, provide an important tool for understanding the controls of these systems.
Rising rural body-mass index is the main driver of the global obesity epidemic in adults
(NATURE RESEARCH, 2019-05-09)
Body-mass index (BMI) has increased steadily in most countries in parallel with a rise in the proportion of the population who live in cities1,2. This has led to a widely reported view that urbanization is one of the most important drivers of the global rise in obesity3-6. Here we use 2,009 population-based studies, with measurements of height and weight in more than 112 million adults, to report national, regional and global trends in mean BMI segregated by place of residence (a rural or urban area) from 1985 to 2017. We show that, contrary to the dominant paradigm, more than 55% of the global rise in mean BMI from 1985 to 2017-and more than 80% in some low- and middle-income regions-was due to increases in BMI in rural areas. This large contribution stems from the fact that, with the exception of women in sub-Saharan Africa, BMI is increasing at the same rate or faster in rural areas than in cities in low- and middle-income regions. These trends have in turn resulted in a closing-and in some countries reversal-of the gap in BMI between urban and rural areas in low- and middle-income countries, especially for women. In high-income and industrialized countries, we noted a persistently higher rural BMI, especially for women. There is an urgent need for an integrated approach to rural nutrition that enhances financial and physical access to healthy foods, to avoid replacing the rural undernutrition disadvantage in poor countries with a more general malnutrition disadvantage that entails excessive consumption of low-quality calories.
First-in-Human Trial of a Novel Suprachoroidal Retinal Prosthesis
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2014-12-18)
UNLABELLED: Retinal visual prostheses ("bionic eyes") have the potential to restore vision to blind or profoundly vision-impaired patients. The medical bionic technology used to design, manufacture and implant such prostheses is still in its relative infancy, with various technologies and surgical approaches being evaluated. We hypothesised that a suprachoroidal implant location (between the sclera and choroid of the eye) would provide significant surgical and safety benefits for patients, allowing them to maintain preoperative residual vision as well as gaining prosthetic vision input from the device. This report details the first-in-human Phase 1 trial to investigate the use of retinal implants in the suprachoroidal space in three human subjects with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa. The success of the suprachoroidal surgical approach and its associated safety benefits, coupled with twelve-month post-operative efficacy data, holds promise for the field of vision restoration. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01603576.
Small mammals decline with increasing fire extent in northern Australia: evidence from long-term monitoring in Kakadu National Park
(CSIRO PUBLISHING, 2015-01-01)
Small mammal (<2 kg) numbers have declined dramatically in northern Australia in recent decades. Fire regimes, characterised by frequent, extensive, late-season wildfires, are implicated in this decline. Here, we compare the effect of fire extent, in conjunction with fire frequency, season and spatial heterogeneity (patchiness) of the burnt area, on mammal declines in Kakadu National Park over a recent decadal period. Fire extent – an index incorporating fire size and fire frequency – was the best predictor of mammal declines, and was superior to the proportion of the surrounding area burnt and fire patchiness. Point-based fire frequency, a commonly used index for characterising fire effects, was a weak predictor of declines. Small-scale burns affected small mammals least of all. Crucially, the most important aspects of fire regimes that are associated with declines are spatial ones; extensive fires (at scales larger than the home ranges of small mammals) are the most detrimental, indicating that small mammals may not easily escape the effects of large and less patchy fires. Notwithstanding considerable management effort, the current fire regime in this large conservation reserve is detrimental to the native mammal fauna, and more targeted management is required to reduce fire size.
Local and global pyrogeographic evidence that indigenous fire management creates pyrodiversity
Despite the challenges wildland fire poses to contemporary resource management, many fire-prone ecosystems have adapted over centuries to millennia to intentional landscape burning by people to maintain resources. We combine fieldwork, modeling, and a literature survey to examine the extent and mechanism by which anthropogenic burning alters the spatial grain of habitat mosaics in fire-prone ecosystems. We survey the distribution of Callitris intratropica, a conifer requiring long fire-free intervals for establishment, as an indicator of long-unburned habitat availability under Aboriginal burning in the savannas of Arnhem Land. We then use cellular automata to simulate the effects of burning identical proportions of the landscape under different fire sizes on the emergent patterns of habitat heterogeneity. Finally, we examine the global extent of intentional burning and diversity of objectives using the scientific literature. The current distribution of Callitris across multiple field sites suggested long-unburnt patches are common and occur at fine scales (<0.5 ha), while modeling revealed smaller, patchy disturbances maximize patch age diversity, creating a favorable habitat matrix for Callitris. The literature search provided evidence for intentional landscape burning across multiple ecosystems on six continents, with the number of identified objectives ranging from two to thirteen per study. The fieldwork and modeling results imply that the occurrence of long-unburnt habitat in fire-prone ecosystems may be an emergent property of patch scaling under fire regimes dominated by smaller fires. These findings provide a model for understanding how anthropogenic burning alters spatial and temporal aspects of habitat heterogeneity, which, as the literature survey strongly suggests, warrant consideration across a diversity of geographies and cultures. Our results clarify how traditional fire management shapes fire-prone ecosystems, which despite diverse objectives, has allowed human societies to cope with fire as a recurrent disturbance.
Associations between Public Transport Accessibility around Homes and Schools and Walking and Cycling among Adolescents
Good public transport accessibility is associated with active travel, but this is under-researched among adolescents. We tested associations between public transport accessibility and active travel among school-going adolescents (12-18 years; n = 1329) from Melbourne, Australia analysing Victorian Integrated Survey of Travel and Activity data. Outcomes included main mode of transport to school and accumulating ≥20 min of active travel over the day. Low and high compared to no public transport accessibility around homes were associated with higher odds of public transport use (low (odds ratio (OR): 1.94 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.28, 2.94) high (OR: 2.86 95% CI: 1.80, 4.53)). Low and high public transport accessibility around homes were also associated with higher prevalence of achieving ≥20 min of active travel (low (prevalence ratio (PR): 1.14 95% CI: 0.97, 1.34) high (PR: 1.31 95% CI: 1.11, 1.54)) compared to none. Public transport accessibility around schools was associated with public transport use (low (OR: 2.13 95% CI: 1.40, 3.24) high (OR: 5.07 95% CI: 3.35, 7.67)) and achieving ≥20 min of active travel (low (PR: 1.18 95% CI: 1.00, 1.38) high (PR: 1.64 95% CI: 1.41, 1.90)). Positive associations were confirmed between public transport accessibility and both outcomes of active travel.