Rich heads the research group. He is a lecturer in conservation and biodiversity at UQ. After gaining his PhD from the University of Durham in 2004, he worked at the University of Sheffield as a postdoc in Kevin Gaston’s Biodiversity and Macroecology group. He then moved to Hugh Possingham’s Spatial Ecology Lab at the University of Queensland in 2008, before forming his own research group at the beginning of 2010.
Tel: 0458 353 102
Location: Rm 522, Goddard Building 8
My central research interest lies in the relationship between people and biodiversity. I study how people have affected the natural world around them, and how some of their destructive effects can best be reversed. On the flip side, I am also keen to understand whether and how people can benefit positively from experiences of biodiversity. The central innovation in my work is to integrate the fields of urban ecology and conservation biology, and the breadth of my research questions means that I frequently collaborate outside these disciplines to achieve truly integrative analyses. Reflecting the importance of the research questions that I usually tackle, about half of my work is published in journals that cover the whole of biology rather than in disciplinary journals within the fields of urban ecology or conservation biology. I publish regularly in the highest impact journals within biology and have made major contributions in multidisciplinary journals including a first author paper in Nature and a co-authored paper in Science.
Until a few years ago, the science of urban ecology focussed almost entirely on documenting the negative impacts of urbanisation upon biodiversity and ecosystem services. My major contribution to our understanding of the ecology of human-dominated landscapes has been the integration of people into studies of variation in the ecological performance of landscapes. This is crucial in urban environments, where the activities of people shape landscapes and species assemblages in very direct ways, and the conservation management of such areas must satisfy social and economic needs as well as biodiversity objectives. Moreover, experiences of nature close to where we live and work may be important for fostering conservation concern. Perhaps my most useful discovery so far is that human psychological well-being increases with exposure to biodiversity (Fuller et al. 2007. Biology Letters, 3, 390–394). This paper has been highly cited across more than 30 research fields. There has been a huge recent resurgence of interest in testing E.O. Wilson’s Biophilia hypothesis, first posited in the 1980s and now seen as increasingly crucial in understanding the impacts of urbanisation on people and biodiversity.
Some of my other discoveries in urban ecology include that (i) green space infrastructure varies by two orders of magnitude across 400 European cities (Fuller & Gaston 2009), (ii) cities can support high densities of native species relative to the landscape at large (Fuller et al. 2008), (iii) the ecological performance of a city is related primarily to its area rather than human population size or a simple space-filling effect (Fuller & Gaston 2009), (iv) plant species richness can be estimated accurately by people visiting urban green spaces (Fuller et al. 2007), (v) provision by people of resources for biodiversity in their local area is strongly skewed across human society (Gaston et al. 2007; Davies et al. 2009), (vi) access to biodiversity is similarly distributed unevenly across society (Barbosa et al. 2008), (vii) supplementary bird feeding results in enormously high levels of resource provision and shapes bird assemblages using towns and cities (Fuller et al. 2008).
These contributions to our understanding of the ecology of human-dominated environments have led to invitations to author sections in two books recently published by Cambridge University Press and Springer (Gaston 2010 Urban Ecology; Jenks & Jones 2010 Dimensions of the Sustainable City). In related work on urban ecosystems more generally, some of my other discoveries include that (i) anthropogenic noise is associated with the adoption of nocturnal singing by urban birds (Fuller et al. 2007), (ii) small patches of green spaces typically make up a high proportion of overall vegetation cover across a city (Fuller et al. 2010), (iii) urbanisation is associated with elevated mortality rates of a common herbivore (Fuller et al. 2010) and (iv) urban revegetation projects can be highly successful in re-establishing bird assemblages (Shanahan et al. 2010).
As a body of work, my research in conservation biology has improved our understanding of the huge range of variation in the ecological effectiveness of protected areas in delivering conservation benefits. Most importantly, I have discovered a way to improve the performance of protected area networks, by proposing a dynamic method for planning protected areas (Fuller et al. 2010, published in Nature). The paper was enthusiastically supported with a commentary from Peter Karevia, chief scientist at the world’s largest conservation NGO (The Nature Conservancy). According to Kareiva, this discovery respresents “the best thing that could happen to conservation in Australia and, by extrapolation, elsewhere in the world”. Other important discoveries in the science behind reserve planning include the first demonstration of an algorithm that sites new protected areas in places that deliver carbon sequestration as well as biodiversity gains (Venter et al. 2009), and methods to fill the gaps in threatened species coverage in Australia (Watson et al. 2010). These are important discoveries because the designation of more and more protected areas cannot alone deliver conservation outcomes, and human and ecological imperatives for protection must be integrated in an urbanising world.
My discoveries more broadly across the field of conservation biology include that (i) there is a great degree of variation in cost-effectiveness of existing protected areas (Fuller et al. 2010), (ii) Australian threatened species with a high proportion of their geographic range overlapping protected areas are more likely to be stable or recovering than those with little protection (Taylor et al. 2011), (iii), well-planned reserve networks can incorporate human recreation as well as biodiversity objectives (Fuller et al. 2010), (iv) protected areas in South Asia are highly vulnerable to habitat loss (Clark et al. 2013), (v) threats to species persistence show complex spatial dynamics that need to be taken into account when planning protected area networks (Evans et al. 2011), (iv) habitat clearance has spread contagiously across the Earth’s surface highlighting the importance of preventing threats penetrating wilderness areas (Boakes et al. 2010).
Iwamura, T., Possingham, H.P., Chadès, I., Minton, C.D., Murray, N.J., Rogers, D.I., Treml, E. & Fuller, R.A. 2013. Migratory connectivity magnifies the consequences of habitat loss from sea-level rise for shorebird populations. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281, 20130325.
Fuller, R.A., McDonald-Madden, E., Wilson, K.A., Carwardine, J., Grantham, H.S., Watson, J.E.M., Klein, C.J., Green, D.C. & Possingham, H.P. 2010. Replacing underperforming protected areas achieves better conservation outcomes. Nature, 466, 365-367.