Bushland is eroding from Australia’s urban and rural landscapes at an accelerating rate, resulting in irreversible loss of biodiversity. Small remnant patches are often regarded as the most expendable in planning decisions. Theory predicts that large and connected habitat patches should support more species and experience lower extinction rates than small disconnected patches, other things being equal.

But how important are small patches for species persistence in real landscapes? A stronger evidence base is needed to support regulatory and investment decisions for conservation of threatened ecological communities and species.


The aim of the project: “Vegetation Change in a Fragmented Landscape” is to improve understanding of vegetation change in fragmented landscapes and the factors likely to promote persistence of local biodiversity. Fieldwork will be conducted in western Sydney bushland, a data-rich region where a concentration of threatened species and ecological communities intersects with intense pressures for urban development.

You’ll have the opportunity to review the literature on patch viability and develop and implement a sampling design that builds on historical survey data to examine testable hypotheses about which bushland patches are most likely to retain their local flora.

Student benefits

During this project, you’ll achieve the following:

  • develop skills in critical thinking
  • develop skills in scientific writing
  • learn field techniques in vegetation survey that require attention to detail
  • develop an aptitude for plant identification in the field and the lab using keys and reference collections.

The project will provide the experience that is relevant to careers in conservation planning and management, ecological research and environmental consulting. It’s also supported by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, which will provide a co-supervisor and cover costs of fieldwork. Good passes in Australian Climate and Vegetation (GEOS2711) or Flowering Plants (BIOS2051) will be an advantage.

Get involved

To learn more about this project, contact Prof David Keith.

T: +61 2 9385 2111