Hollows, termites and long-term fire regimes in Top End tropical savannas

  • Murphy, Brett (Principal Investigator/Chief Investigator A)
  • Rochelmeyer, Ellen Claudia (Principal Investigator/Chief Investigator A)

Project: Research

Project Details


My PhD project aims to better understand the factors affecting the creation and destruction of tree hollows in tropical savannas, in order to improve fire and land management decisions for fauna conservation. Across four key questions/chapters, I will investigate how long-term fire regimes affect both termite communities and hollow abundance, as well as test novel applications of technology for hollow detection.

My research will predominantly be conducted at existing experimental fire plots at the Territory Wildlife Park (TWP), located approximately 40 km south-east of Darwin. Six different fire regimes are replicated within 18 x 1 ha plots, ranging from unburned to annually burned. These burning regimes have been maintained since 2004, offering the rare opportunity to study the long-term effects of different fire regimes on biodiversity.

My fieldwork will be conducted in two parts. Part A (first half of 2022) will involve identifying relationships between termites, fire and hollows at the TWP, as well as trialling and establishing methodology for the novel use of technology for hollow surveys. Part B (March – June 2023) will be conducted at the Ranger Uranium Mine reference sites in Kakadu National Park. Work at the Ranger Mine will be a combination of validating the relationships identified and hollow prediction methods developed at the TWP, as well as demonstrating a practical restoration application of my work. Ranger Mine has ceased operations and will close in 2026. In order to meet closure requirements, the mine must demonstrate that restoration of the site is on a trajectory towards an ecosystem similar to the surrounding Kakadu National Park, including the development of habitat for fauna (such as hollows). Several reference sites were established for the mine area, including “natural” and previously restored sites. By surveying for termites, stem piping and hollows at the reference sites, and comparing the “natural” and previously restored sites, I hope to inform when and how many hollows might be expected to develop at the restored mine site. The termite, stem piping and hollow surveys will be conducted as for the TWP, but at
a smaller scale. In addition, the reference sites will be scanned using LiDAR, to test models of hollow abundance developed at the TWP.

I am applying for funding to support Part A of my fieldwork, which will be based at the TWP and involves the following questions/chapters
Effective start/end date1/02/2231/01/23


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