Research in the forests and water area encompasses a number of themes:
- Forest water use and streamflow dynamics
- Post-fire hydrology in a changing environment
- Geomorphic processes in forest environments
- Forest disturbance, erosion processes and water quality
- Risk and resilience
- Landscape fuel moisture status
- Catchment evolution
The research program is aimed at answering some of the key questions concerning the hydrologic and geomorphic response of native and planted forests to growth, and disturbance by fire and climate drivers. Research approaches combine field measurement, remote sensing and modelling and seek to understand fundamental hydrologic functioning, responses and resilience to external environmental drivers, and risks to water supplies. We have a particular focus on the effects of fire (both wildfire and planned burning) on water quality and water yield, and the resultant land and catchment management issues. We also have a strong interest in the resilience of forests to fire and climate stresses, and to understanding how the spatial distribution of landscape soil and vegetation attributes effect hydrology. The hydrologic status of hillslopes and vegetation is also an important aspect of fire behaviour. We are using our hydrologic expertise to investigate how topography, climate and forest structure affect fuel moisture.
Our research framework has at its heart a philosophy of understanding fundamental system processes and properties and then building this knowledge into practical applications in forest and catchment management, bushfire management and response, and water resource planning. The applications may take the form of robust science to underpin industry or government policy, or development of models for particular management applications.
For example, we are engaged in long term research program with Melbourne Water to better understand the impact of bushfires on the quantity and quality of water supplies. Our findings directly inform operational and strategic planning such as evaluating the need to build water contamination treatment plants, or incorporating changes in catchment water yields from burnt forests into long term planning.
Another long term program with the Victorian Department of Land, Water, Environment and Planning includes developing methodologies and models for the Rapid Response Assessment Teams who evaluate risk to human and environmental assets following bushfires and floods, and in providing expert opinion and models for the teams that develop Victoria’s long term fuel reduction planning.