6 June 2017
A University of the Sunshine Coast conservation scientist who is assessing the impact of lianas (woody vines) on forest health and value has been granted a $900,000 Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (ARC).
USC Senior Research Fellow Dr Andrew Marshall was among 91 new ARC Future Fellows announced yesterday by Federal Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham for research considered to have critical national importance.
Dr Marshall, who joined USC’s Tropical Forests and People Research Centre in March, said it was wonderful to receive the four-year fellowship for his project to assess the impact of lianas and their removal on forest restoration.
He said the funding would enable the appointment of two PhD students and a postdoctoral fellow to assist him in conducting work across Africa and along the east coast of Australia, and collaborate with researchers in the United Kingdom, the USA, Denmark and Tanzania.
“Lianas have a negative impact on forests because they grow up rapidly in disturbed areas of forest and compete intensely with trees for nutrients and light,” he said. “But they are also part of the forest ecosystem and biodiversity, and they provide food and pathways for animals.
“We will use new field infrastructure, removal experiments and global datasets to compare forest health under varying liana dominance, determine whether lianas are preventing recovery, and predict regional and global impacts,” he said.
“This project will help us estimate the economic impact of vines on tropical forests and could have significant implications for forest health, the implementation of restoration methods in priority areas, and the global economy.”
USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland De Marco congratulated Dr Marshall on his success in gaining this prestigious fellowship.
“This is a distinction that is reserved for the very best mid-career research scholars, and is a clear sign of the high international standing of Andrew and his research,” he said.
Dr Marshall, who previously worked for the University of York in the UK, has focused his research efforts on addressing the impacts of tropical forest damage on plant and animal biodiversity, population density, and biomass.
He described the ARC Future Fellowship as ‘career defining’ and thanked USC’s Office of Research for supporting his work, which will help Australia map its biomass, predict future change, and contribute to achieving national climate change and energy goals.
“I love the strong research outlook that USC has,” he said. “It’s such a supportive research environment and it’s been wonderful to work with the team here.”
— Terry Walsh