ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Understanding bird responses in regenerating agricultural landscapes (2010-2013)

Strategic Research Area

Woody Regrowth in Rural Landscapes



Investigators/ Researchers

Lisa Smallbone (PhD candidate) Supervisors: A/Prof Ian Lunt (Principal), Dr Alison Matthews, Dr John Morgan (La Trobe University)


This project investigates regenerating vegetation in a post-agricultural landscape and how the present and future vegetation mosaic influence the regional bird community.

Does regrowth provide different resources to forest and pasture habitats? This was investigated by comparing bird composition across a range of land uses and gradients of vegetation cover, from cleared pasture, through regrowth sites of varying structure, to remnant forests.

What are the vegetation succession patterns in this changing landscape? This was addressed by developing a state & transition model based on spatial analysis of a time series of aerial photos and modelling predictors for change in states including time, seed source and competition.

How will vegetation patterns develop in the future? This was analysed by applying a cellular automata model to predict future vegetation patterns under different rainfall and disturbance scenarios. Future vegetation patterns will influence the type of bird community supported and determine any management options required to maintain diversity.

Regenerating vegetation on abandoned farmland. Photo: LisaSmallboneThe study has found that regrowth provides important habitat for a complementary group of high conservation value species, which is adding to regional bird species diversity.

Regenerating vegetation on abandoned farmland. Photo: LisaSmallbone


Conference presentations:

INTECOL. London Aug 2013 Opportunities for ecosystem recovery in regenerating agricultural landscapes: a case study from an Australian temperate multi function landscape.

ESA. Hobart Tasmania December 2011 Woodland bird responses to passive regeneration following agricultural retirement.

Biodiversity Across Borders. Ballarat, 2011 Passive regeneration following agricultural retirement leads to large-scale conservation gains.


Smallbone, L.T., Matthews, A. & Lunt, I. ( 2013) Regrowth provides complementary habitat for woodland birds of conservation concern in a regenerating agricultural landscape. Lisa T Smallbone, Alison Matthews and Ian D Lunt. Landscape and Urban Planning. In review

Whitsed, R. & Smallbone, L. (2013) Uncertainty in a Cellular Automata model for vegetation change. Rachel Whitsed and Lisa Smallbone. Journal of Spatial Sciences. submitted


Outcomes from this research will add to our knowledge of how the landscape vegetation mosaic changes over time with a shift in land use patterns. This will help conserve woodland bird species by understanding the dynamics of regrowth patches as potential complimentary habitats to public reserves and ecological plantings on farms.

Lisa Smallbone
Charles Sturt University – Albury

October 2013