Doctor Christopher Gordon

Chris GordonI’m a landscape ecologist and conservation biologist interested in understanding how biotic interactions and abiotic disturbances impact ecosystem dynamics and processes, with a key focus on developing tools for environmental and ecosystem management. I have a particular interest in wildfire ecology / risk management and trophic ecology and have extensive experience in these areas. My research on wildfire ecology / risk management has focused on understanding how historical wildfire regimes and fire severity impacts fire fuel loads, carbon sequestration, floristic diversity and fauna-flora interactions. My research on trophic ecology has focused on understanding how ecosystem disturbance through species extinction (especially keystone apex predators and ecosystem engineers) impacts species-species interactions, biodiversity and ecosystem resilience. I have worked across a variety of arid, semi-arid, savanna and forested biomes both in Australia and South Africa and my research uses a range of methodologies and datasets including landscape scale field surveys, small scale experiments, remote sensing tools, historical information and spatial and statistical analyses.

My passion for ecology and environmental management started during my honors research and employment as a research assistant at the Desert Ecology Research Group (University of Sydney; 2007 – 2010), where I worked on various projects focusing on reptile and mammal ecology. My PhD research at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Western Sydney University; 2011 – 2015) was entrenched in trophic ecology, and specifically aimed to understand how the extirpation of Australia’s largest apex predator, the dingo (Canis dingo), impacts ecosystem structure, resilience and biodiversity. My postdoctoral research at the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires (University of Wollongong; 2015 – 2018) investigated how historical wildfire regimes and fire severity impacts fire fuel loads, floristic diversity, carbon sequestration and fauna-flora interactions. My postdoctoral research at the Centre for Biodiversity in a Changing World (Aarhus University, Denmark; 2018 – 2020) focused on megafauna ecology and trophic rewilding, using a case study of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) reintroductions in South African savanna to test how / when trophic rewilding can be used as a conservation tool to promote biodiversity.

As a Research Fellow within the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, I will be using remote sensing products and statistical techniques to determine how drought impacts wildfire occurrence and activity in wet forest types (e.g. rainforests) of eastern Australia.

Areas of research/teaching expertise

Bushfires (opens in a new window), Landscape ecology, wildfire ecology and risk management, trophic ecology, conservation biology, trophic rewilding

Awards and recognition
  • Excellence in Research Impact, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research, Enterprise and International) Research Award, with HIE Bushfire Research Group, Western Sydney University, 2023.
  • 2023 - NSW Department of Planning and Environment, 'Ongoing implementation of a long-term fire and environment monitoring program'.
  • 2023 - NSW Rural Fire Service, 'Does fire regime and post rainfall impact fuel recovery following the Black Summer?'
  • 2023 - NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 'NSW North Coast Rainforest - Wildfire reconstruction case studies'.
  • 2022 - NSW Department of Planning and Environment,  'Testing the efficacy of roost microclimate manipulation for mitigating heat stress in flying foxes'.
  • 2017 – Margaret Middleton Fund for Endangered Australian Native Vertebrate Animals ($13,390), Australian Academy of Science: “Interacting impacts of persistent fire regimes and predation on threatened mammals”.
Selected publications

Gordon CE, Greve M, Henley M, Bedetti A, Allin P, Svenning JC, (2023) 'Elephant rewilding affects landscape openness and fauna habitat across a 92-year period', Ecological Applications, vol.33, no.3

Gordon CE, Stares MG, Bendall ER, Bradstock RA, (2023) 'Wildfire and Climate Impacts Tree Hollow Density in a Temperate Australian Forest', Forests, vol.14, no.7, art. no.1372

Gordon CE, Lerm R, Allin P, Greve M, Svenning J-C, (2021) 'Elephant rewilding indirectly affects the abundance of an arboreal but not generalist savanna lizard', Biodiversity and Conversation, vol.30. no.5, pp 1277-1291

Gordon CE, Letnic M, (2019) 'Evidence that the functional extinction of small mammals facilitates shrub encroachment following wildfire in arid Australia', Journal of Arid Environments, vol.164, pp 60-68

Gordon CE, Stares MG, Bendall ER, Bradstock R, (2018) 'Above ground carbon sequestration in a dry temperate forest varies with climate not fire regime', Global Change Biology, vol.24, no.9, pp 4280-4292

Lyons MB, Mills CH, Gordon CE, Letnic M, (2018) 'Linking a trophic cascade to desert dune geomorphology using high resolution drone data', Journal of the Royal Society Interface, vol.15, no.144, Article no.20180327

Gordon CE, Price O, Tasker E, (2017) 'Mapping and exploring variation in post-fire vegetation recovery in the Warrumbungle National Park using airborne LiDAR', Ecological Applications, vol.27, no.5, pp 1618-1632

Gordon CE, Eldridge D, Ripple WJ, Crowther MS, Moore BD, Letnic M, (2017) 'Shrub encroachment in an arid landscape is linked to extirpation of an apex predator', Journal of Animal Ecology, vol.86, no.1, pp 147-157

Gordon CE, Price OF, Tasker EM, Denham AJ, (2016) 'Acacia shrubs respond positively to high severity wildfire: implications for conservation and fuel hazard management', Science of the Total Environment, vol.575, pp 858-868

Letnic M, Koch F, Gordon C, Crowther MS, Dickman CR, (2009) 'Keystone effects of an alien top-predator stem extinctions of native mammals', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol.276, no.1671, pp 3249-3256