Associate Professor Bruce Richard Burns
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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
Areas of expertise
Biodiversity, Biosecurity and Conservation
Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)
- 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, William Lee
- 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, William Lee, Luitgard Schwendenmann
- Johansen, R. B., Johnston, P., Mieczkowski, P., Perry, G. L. W., Robeson, M. S., Vilgalys, R., & Burns, B. R. (2017). Scattered far and wide: A broadly distributed temperate dune grass finds familiar fungal root associates in its invasive range. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 112, 177-190. 10.1016/j.soilbio.2017.05.007
Other University of Auckland co-authors: George Perry
- Stone, Z. L., Burns, B. R., Moorhouse, R., & Clout, M. N. (2017). Kakapo habitat selection on Hauturu-o-toi in relation to plant phenology. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 41 (2), 207-217. 10.20417/nzjecol.41.32