Biodiversity Lab

The Biodiversity Lab investigates the distribution, ecology and conservation of biodiversity in Oceania. The group is led by Gunnar Keppel and is based at the University of South Australia. It is a welcoming and inclusive environment that provides research students with a forum to disucuss issues pertaining to their research and studies.


Gunnar Keppel (group leader)

Mark Carey (PhD student, UniSA) – Project: New statistical approaches to studying species diversity in insular habitats.

Alivereti Naikatini (PhD student, university of the South Pacific): Behavioural ecology of Fiji’s woodland songbirds.

Siteri Tikoca (PhD student, University of Adelaide). Foraging habitats of an endangered Fijian cave roosting bat.

Stephen Fricker (Masters student, UniSA) Seasonal variation of mosquito assemblages in the Murraylands.

Shaun O’Sullivan (Masters student, UniSA) Arthropod diversity in native and artificial vegetation remnants.

Udo Sarnow (Masters student, UniSA). Dieback of stringybark forests in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

“Charlotte” Xiang Ning Kok (Honours student, UniSA) Ecology and biogeography of the South Australia Grass Tree, Xanthorrhoea semiplana.

Jerusha King (Honours student, UniSA) Quantifying ecosystem impacts of stringybark dieback.

Michael Otasowie Eguagie (PhD student, UniSA – to join soon) – Project: Cyclone impacts on the functioning of rain forests.


Current and Future Impacts of Tropical Cyclones on Forests

Tropical cyclones are frequent, large-scale events that cause severe damage to nature and ecosystems. They are predicted to increase in intensity and to occur at higher latitudes dues to anthropogenic climate change. This project investigates the impacts of tropical cyclones on the structure and functioning of rain forests and how these are likely to change as a result of climate change. Functional trait data will be related to cyclone intensity to infer how affect the functioning of forests. Key collaborators are: Thomas Ibanez (University of Hawaii), John Dwyer (University of Queensland), Peter Vesk (University of Melbourne), Christophe Menkes (IRD Noumea), and Dan Metcalfe (CSIRO). Funding for the project is provided by the Hermon Slade Foundation.

Microclimate and Biodiversity

Microclimate can have profound impacts on the distribution of biodiversity. Despite this we know little about how vegetation modifies prevalent conditions to create unique microclimates. This project investigates how native vegetation is moderating microclimate in South Australia. We have established a network of five sites that consist transects starting at the edge of vegetation and equipped with temperature and humidity sensors in the air and soil to determine how vegetation moderates prevalent climates. The project is based at the University of South Australia and multi-disciplinary. Key collaborators are John Boland and Stefan Peters, both at the University of South Australia.

The edge of a woodland in the Fleurieu Peninsula. Photo: Gunnar Keppel

Microrefugia and their Importance under Anthropogenic Climate Change

Refugia are locations that facilitate the persistence of biota when the surrounding landscape becomes inhabitable for a species due to environmental change. The ability to foster the persistence of biodiversity is facilitated by refugia their ability to buffer environmental change, often as result of topographic complexity. Given the rapid ongoing changes caused by anthropogenic climate change, refugia have received considerable attention for their potential to facilitate in situ persistence of biodiversity. This project investigates the role of microrefugia in facilitating the persistence of biodiversity under anthropogenic climate change. A good example of microrefugia are karst dolines, which offer both warmer and cooler climates than the surrounding landscape. As the biota of karst dolines in South Australia has never been studies in detail, they constitute a key study system for this project.The project is based at the University of South Australia and is multi-disciplinary in nature. Zoltán Batori of the University of Szeged is a key collaborator. Some funding has been provided by the Royal Society of South Australia.

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