Soil biogeochemistry and flooding in intermittent streams of the semi-arid Pilbara region
In my PhD project, I am determining spatial and temporal change in nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon fractions in stream landscapes of the Pilbara region in response to flood-drought cycles.
This research will incorporate factors such as vegetation distribution and composition, channel geomorphology and stream hydrology.
Using stable isotope techniques and lab-based incubations, I will supplement field studies with process-based lab experiments. Through phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) and GCMS profiling, I will further investigate microbial community composition and functioning.
Sampling is being conducted in a geospatial framework and the final synthesis of findings will serve as a foundation model of biogeochemical processes for semi-arid creeks in the Pilbara region.
The Pilbara is a unique region that is poorly understood from an ecological perspective. There is a pressing need for baseline studies in order to assess ecosystem responses to a range of land use including pastoralism, mining, tourism and conservation.
Riparian areas are zones of critical importance in maintaining ecosystem functioning in semi-arid landscapes, and are often highly affected by natural and anthropogenic disturbances.
Streams in the Pilbara are predominantly intermittent, with only a few having permanent surface water. We currently have only limited understanding of the processes that maintain dryland streams, particularly those of an intermittent nature, and almost no information on biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nutrients.