Ben French

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Ben French


Room 223 , Life Sciences Building

Exploring the influence of fire mosaics on biodiversity in contrasting ecosystems

Fire is a key ecological disturbance, and its occurrence is highly variable in both time and space. Fires create ‘mosaics’ of different aged vegetation, and the extent to which the configuration of these mosaics influences biodiversity is debated. One view is that smaller, patchier fires promote biodiversity because the resulting mosaics exhibit fine-scaled habitat variability and are less prone to larger, more severe fires. This concept is especially relevant in Australia, because the transition from Indigenous to European land management has seen fire size increase. Ben is exploring these concepts using two major field studies; a grassland burning experiment in the Tasmanian Midlands and a post-fire restoration trial in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

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Fields of Research

  • Terrestrial ecology (310308)
  • Landscape ecology (410206)
  • Forestry fire management (300706)
  • Environmental assessment and monitoring (410402)
  • Ecosystem function (410203)
  • Environmental management (410404)

Research Objectives

  • Natural hazards (190499)
  • Terrestrial biodiversity (180606)
  • Ecosystem adaptation to climate change (190102)
  • Assessment and management of freshwater ecosystems (180301)
  • Soils (180605)
  • Assessment and management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems (180403)


Total publications


Journal Article

(7 outputs)
2020Prior LD, French BJ, Storey K, Williamson GJ, Bowman DMJS, 'Soil moisture thresholds for combustion of organic soils in western Tasmania', International Journal of Wildland Fire pp. 1-11. ISSN 1049-8001 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1071/WF19196 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 6

Co-authors: Prior LD; Williamson GJ; Bowman DMJS


2019Allen KJ, Brookhouse M, French BJ, Nichols SC, Dahl B, et al., 'Two climate-sensitive tree-ring chronologies from Arnhem Land, monsoonal Australia', Austral Ecology, 44, (4) pp. 581-596. ISSN 1442-9993 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/aec.12699 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 5

Co-authors: Allen KJ; Prior LD; Bowman DMJS


2018Prior LD, French BJ, Bowman DMJS, 'Effect of experimental fire on seedlings of Australian and Gondwanan trees species from a Tasmanian montane vegetation mosaic', Australian Journal of Botany, 66, (7) pp. 511-517. ISSN 0067-1924 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1071/BT18124 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 7

Co-authors: Prior LD; Bowman DMJS


2016French BJ, Hope GS, Prior LD, Bowman DMJS, 'The vulnerability of peatlands in the Australian Alps', Australasian Plant Conservation, 24, (4) pp. 16-18. ISSN 2202-5804 (2016) [Non Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Prior LD; Bowman DMJS

2016French BJ, Prior LD, Williamson GJ, Bowman DMJS, 'Cause and effects of a megafire in sedge-heathland in the Tasmanian temperate wilderness', Australian Journal of Botany, 64, (6) pp. 513-525. ISSN 0067-1924 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1071/BT16087 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 10Web of Science - 11

Co-authors: Prior LD; Williamson GJ; Bowman DMJS


2014Bowman DMJS, French BJ, Prior LD, 'Have plants evolved to self-immolate?', Frontiers in Plant Science, 5 Article 590. ISSN 1664-462X (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00590 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 52Web of Science - 47

Co-authors: Bowman DMJS; Prior LD


2014Clarke PJ, Prior LD, French BJ, Vincent B, Knox KJE, et al., 'Using a rainforest-flame forest mosaic to test the hypothesis that leaf and litter fuel flammability is under natural selection', Oecologia, 176, (4) pp. 1123-1133. ISSN 0029-8549 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-014-3071-y [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 22Web of Science - 25

Co-authors: Prior LD; Bowman DMJS


Grants & Funding

Funding Summary

Number of grants


Total funding



Patch burning for hazard reduction and biodiversity: linking fire, herbivores and vegetation (2019 - 2021)$108,000
A central aim in fire ecology is to understand which patterns of burning are best ecologically, and for risk mitigation, particularly for those sensitive plants and soils which are threatened by inappropriate burning regimes. For palatable tree species, this is further complicated by fire-herbivore interactions. The Pyric-Herbivory hypothesis, developed inNorth America, posits that fire and herbivores are inextricably linked, because herbivores target nutritious post-burn shoots, reducing fuel and repeat fire, until attracted to more freshly burnt areas. These processes may be instrumental in maintaining fine-scale diversity in Australian vegetation (given the abundance of fire and herbivores, and the historic prevalence of Aboriginal burning, ostensibly to create hunting opportunities) with important implications for plant species that are disadvantaged by intense herbivory.I will use real-world experiments to explore the effects of fire and herbivory on sensitive plants and organic soils and help optimise prescribed burning practices for ecological, hazard reduction and social outcomes.
Westpac Banking Corporation ($108,000)
Scholarship-Future Leaders
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Bowman DMJS; French BJ
2019 - 2021
We will use a multi-scale (landscape, micro-catchment and plot scales) approach to address the core objectives of the tender: (a) promoting recovery, rehabilitation and/or maintenance of pencil pine and sphagnum community values, where these have been damaged by fire, (b) mitigation of long term erosion risks in high elevation, fire-damaged soils, and (c) development of a decision tool to guide effective rehabilitation methods. This multi-scale approach leverages off recent field research in the area as well as current student projects.
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment ($482,000)
Contract Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Bowman DMJS; Turner DJ; French BJ
2017 - 2022