Samantha Setterfield

Tropical Savannas

My research group currently works in the savannas across northern Australia, from the Kimberley, through the NT and in Cape York. We continue to have significant breakthroughs in understanding the impact of invasive grasses (particularly Andropogon gayanus, gamba grass) on nutrient cycling, biodiversity and fire regimes. We demonstrated that some weed species in tropical savannas are operating as ecosystem transformers by initiating a self-perpetuating grass-fire cycle of degradation. Our research has predicted the long-term implications of these changes to Australia’s tropical ecosystem structure and function, and the cost and approaches of effective management. This has been achieved by detailed ecological studies and incorporation of this knowledge into innovative spatially-explicit weed spread and management models.

Tropical Wetlands

A major focus of current research is on the ecology of rivers and wetlands in northern Australia and potential impacts on ecological and social values from water extraction, plant invasions and climate change. Research is also assessing the impact of fire on riparian zones, which are critical refuges in these ecosystems that experience annual drought and frequent fire. This research is led by Michael Douglas UWA as part of the National Environmental Science Program.