Inaugural winner – ESA Applied Forest Ecology Scholarship

In 2016, with the assistance of a generous anonymous donor, ESA offered a new research grant opportunity aimed at Honours and Masters level students studying Forest Ecology. The scholarship supports a student conducting research into issues important to the management and sustainability of forests through providing a $2000 research grant and funded attendance at ESA16 to present their findings.

Our inaugural winner is Laura van Galen from University of Tasmania for her project “Developing an index for classifying forest maturity”. Mature forests are highly valued in landscapes. Not only do they have aesthetic value, but they also contain many species, structures and functional attributes that are rare or absent in younger forests. However, mature forests are declining in many landscapes as a result of land clearing, timber harvesting and increased wildfires due to climate change. Consequently, sustainable forest management places high value on mature forest species and characteristics.

However at present, our understanding of exactly what constitutes a mature forest is not well developed, and there is no simple measure of forest maturity. I aim to examine the relationships between the biological and structural variables associated with forests of different successional stages, by measuring these variables in Tasmanian wet eucalypt forests. I want to determine whether these variables relate in a way that reflects the overall maturity of the forest, and therefore if these variables can be used as indicators to define maturity level. If this is the case, I will develop a simple and easy to use index based on these variables, which can be used to provide information about the maturity level of different forest stands to assist with landscape management.

Laura will present her findings at ESA16 in Fremantle, W.A. in December 2016. Applications for the 2017 Scholarship open November 1, 2016.

The Society sincerely thanks the private donor who has generously made this award possible.