Associate Professor Bruce Richard Burns


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Associate Professor

Research | Current

My research interests broadly cover the field of plant ecology in seeking to understand determinants and mechanisms of plant persistence, distribution and abundance.  I am particularly interested in species-level positive feedback mechanisms.  The contexts for this research vary widely but include:


  1. Forest ecology.  What determines plant species coexistence in native forest ecosystems?  How does variation in environment, disturbance regime, and biotic interactions lead to spatial and temporal differences in forest structure and diversity? In Auckland, I’m particularly interested in the unusual forests dominated by the ancient conifer Agathis australis (kauri) and other members of the Araucariaceae, and the ecology of hemiephiphytes such as Metrosideros robusta (northern rata), once a common component of North Island forests.
  2. Biodiversity management in urban, rural and plantation forest ecosystems.  There is increasing interest in maintaining and increasing native plants and animals in human-dominated landscapes while reducing the impact of invasive species.  What determines the persistence of indigenous biota within these landscapes and how can management be adapted that is sympathetic to biodiversity?
  3. Ecological restoration.  Reversing biodiversity decline now requires restoration of degraded ecosystems.  How do we manage natural processes to achieve restoration goals cost-effectively in these systems?
  4. Ecosystem and community responses to pest removal in biodiversity sanctuaries.  The development of areas where mammalian pests are reduced to near-zero densities has increased dramatically as a conservation strategy in New Zealand, sometimes using pest-proof fencing.  What changes and responses in natural communities occur as a result of this intervention, and what contribution to national conservation goals will these techniques achieve?
  5. Geothermal ecosystems. The environments of geothermal areas (sometimes termed solfataras) are characterised by constant steam, heated acidic soils with unusual concentrations of minerals and elements, and an atmosphere altered by rare gases. Yet, a diverse vegetation community develops on this area of stress-tolerant plants. How do plants and other associated organisms, e.g., fungi, survive in these extreme environments?


Associated Links:

Areas of expertise

Biodiversity, Biosecurity and Conservation

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Brock, J. M. R., Morales, N. S., Burns, B. R., & Perry, G. L. W. (2019). The hare, tortoise and crocodile revisited: Tree fern facilitation of conifer persistence and angiosperm growth in simulated forests. Journal of Ecology10.1111/1365-2745.13305
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: James Brock, George Perry
  • Bradshaw, R. E., Bellgard, S. E., Black, A., Burns, B. R., Gerth, M. L., McDougal, R. L., ... Williams, N. M. (2019). Phytophthora agathidicida: Research progress, cultural perspectives and knowledge gaps in the control and management of kauri dieback in New Zealand. Plant Pathology10.1111/ppa.13104
  • Innes, J. G., Watts, C., & Burns, B. (2019). Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari Restoration Plan 2019–2029. Hamilton: Manaaki-Whenua Landcare Research.
  • Brock, J. M. R., Burns, B. R., Perry, G. L. W., & Lee, W. G. (2019). Gametophyte niche differences among sympatric tree ferns. Biology Letters, 15 (1).10.1098/rsbl.2018.0659
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: James Brock, George Perry
  • Innes, J., Fitzgerald, N., Binny, R., Byrom, A., Pech, R., Watts, C., ... Burns, B. (2019). New Zealand ecosanctuaries: types, attributes and outcomes. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, online first10.1080/03036758.2019.1620297
  • Brock, J. M. R., Perry, G. L. W., Burkhardt, T., & Burns, B. R. (2018). Forest seedling community response to understorey filtering by tree ferns. Journal of Vegetation Science, 29 (5), 887-897. 10.1111/jvs.12671
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: James Brock, George Perry
  • Wyse, S., Wilmshurst, J., Burns, B., & Perry, G. (2018). New Zealand forest dynamics: a review of past and present vegetation responses to disturbance, and development of conceptual forest models. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 42 (2).10.20417/nzjecol.42.18
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janet Wilmshurst, George Perry
  • Brock, J. M. R., Perry, G. L. W., Lee, W. G., Schwendenmann, L., & Burns, B. R. (2018). Pioneer tree ferns influence community assembly in northern New Zealand forests. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 42 (1), 18-30. 10.20417/nzjecol.42.5
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: James Brock, George Perry, Luitgard Schwendenmann


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 121
New Zealand

Web links