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Mr Thomas Wright

profile_wright_thumbMr Thomas Wright
PhD student

Topic: influence of adjacent land-use type on remnant woodland ecology

University of Melbourne

The flow of energy and water across fragmented ecosystems is regulated by the management and structure of the surrounding landscape (known as the landscape "matrix"). Changes to landscape that surround remnant vegetation can also change the microclimate of the remnants, particularly at the edges of the remnant patch. Plant ecosystems are sensitive to small changes in microclimate and so these ecosystems are likely to be affected by changes in the surrounding landscape, including conversion from agricultural land to plantations. My PhD research project investigates how a change in land use from agriculture to plantation has affected the ecology of remnant vegetation.

The study area is the Green Triangle plantation region (south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia), where over the past 10 years blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus ssp. globulus) plantations have been established on traditional agricultural land to support a burgeoning pulp wood industry. Blue gum plantations currently occupy about five per cent of the region and are expected to double in area over the next 20 years. The dominant native plant community in the study region is brown stringybark (Eucalyptus baxteri) / desert stringybark (E. arenacea) heathy woodlands.

My main research questions for this project are:
1) How does a change in land use from agricultural land to blue gum plantation affect the microclimate of remnant woodlands?
2) How does a change in land use from agricultural land to blue gum plantation affect the functioning of several important plant ecosystem processes (such as transpiration, photosynthesis and leaf production, which are the ones likely to be the most responsive to a change in land use)?

Before I started this project I completed an undergraduate degree in natural resource management at the University of Melbourne. During those studies it became evident that the biggest conservation challenges were not necessarily to do with 'iconic ecosystems' but the preservation and management of highly fragmented and poorly conserved ecosystems that occur mainly in production landscapes. With this research project, the CRC for Forestry has provided me with the unique opportunity to combine research in my field of interest and to be able to work closely with industry.

My supervisors are Dr Lauren Bennett (School of Forests and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne), Associate Professor Michael Tausz (School of Forests and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne) and Dr Sabine Kasel (School of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne). My PhD is funded and supported by the University of Melbourne, the CRC for Forestry and Timbercorp.

My PhD studies contribute to Research Programme Four (Trees in the Landscape) of the CRC for Forestry, under the Biodiversity project.

To browse other PhD projects available with Research Programme Four click here

To view a map of the greater Green Triangle area on an external site click here