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Ms Chela Powell

Chela-Powell-updated-photo-Aug-2011 - croppedDr Chela Powell
PhD student

Topic: Does the matrix matter? The impact of blue gum plantation establishment on remnant beetle communities of the Green Triangle region, south-eastern Australia.

University of Melbourne

Interactions, if any, between original native forest remaining in the landscape (remnant vegetation) and monoculture plantations aren't well understood. There has been much research into the value of remnant patches for improving biodiversity of birds, mammals and reptiles within a plantation landscape, but there has been little investigation into the attributes of the remaining native vegetation that may be important for animal biodiversity, particularly that of invertebrates.


Beetles (Coleoptera) play a very important role within any terrestrial ecosystem they inhabit, because they provide a wide range of ecosystem services as predators, decomposers, pollinators and also as a food source for other members of the ecosystem.


The principal aim of this research was to investigate the impact, if any, of blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantation establishment on remnant, beetle communities within the Green Triangle region. My thesis aimed to identify those remnant characteristics that are important for beetle communities, while assessing the potential of three abundant beetle families (Carabidae, Staphylinidae and Tenebrionidae) as indicators of environmental change, in order to assist in the maintenance and management of local beetle biodiversity.


My PhD provided me with the opportunity to interact with a range of industry partners, allowing me to develop working relationships with people I would not otherwise have had the chance to work with and learn from. I was also afforded the opportunity to carry out my field work in a very beautiful part of the world – The Green Triangle.


This thesis confirms the importance of incorporating features of the matrix (the area surrounded by remnant native vegetation) into habitat fragmentation studies. The findings from this research suggest that the relatively recent establishment of bluegum plantations in the matrix has helped to mitigate some of the impacts of habitat fragmentation, by providing additional habitat as well as a buffering effect for remnant beetle communities within the region.


My supervisors were Nick Collett, Peter Ades (Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne), and Charlma Phillips (Forestry SA).


My PhD studies contribute to the CRC Forestry Biodiversity Project.


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