School of Engineering, Information Technology and Physical Sciences

Fungi and Fire: How forest recover after catastrophic events

Masters by Research

Fungi and Fire: How forest recover after catastrophic events.


Intensity of bushfires varies considerably as do the landscapes they affect. Bushfire intensity is not a precisely defined feature yet the effects of varying intensity are observable. Fire intensity may vary considerably whether naturally started or deliberately lit,(as in hazard reduction burns). Natural vegetation areas in Victoria are categorised into Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs), and among these we can identify uncontaminated (pristine) sites, or contaminated (brownfield) sites that have been recently burnt from natural ignition. One of the early recolonisers are fungi and they are essential in the regrowth and reestablishment of a resilient landscape. We aim to compare burnt sites of differing fire intensity (identified via a key from established criteria) in “pristine” and “brownfield” landscapes. At these sample sites we aim to assess the recolonisation of fungi (determined by field and laboratory identification) and also assess heavy metal uptake into the fungi fruiting bodies (determined by laboratory assays). We will be investigating the relationships between landscape type (pristine and brownfield), fire intensity (high, medium, low), fungi occurrence (species and abundance), and heavy metal uptake by fungi fruiting bodies. The implications of these for ecological management within the EVCs will be discussed.

The research will encompass the following main phases:

· Global literature review (formulated as a review paper for publication)

· landscape analysis to determine zones of high and low burn intensity

· In autumn 2020, field survey to determine the species colonization of fungi in the landscape. Specimens will also be collected for identification and for nutrient and heavy metal analyses.

· Analysis ant ANSTO vie INAA

· Production of two papers one exploring the fire intensity verse fungi colonization and the other to address metal contamination uptake.

Supervisory team

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Kim Dowling

Co-supervisor: Professor S. K. Florentine