Doctor Matthias Boer

Matthias BoerDr Matthias Boer's research interest focuses on the landscape ecology and management of fire-prone environments. He is particularly interested in the biophysical basis for spatial variation in current and future fire regimes, and in the mechanisms and feedbacks by which fire may mediate, reinforce or constrain impacts of changing climate, [CO2] or land use on ecosystem functions and services such as regulation of water and carbon fluxes or biodiversity conservation.

Matthias joined the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in 2011, after previous research positions with Cemagref in France (2010), The University of Western Australia (2004-2010), the CSIC - Arid Zone Research Station in Spain (1993-1999; 2001-2003), and CSIRO's Centre for Arid Zone Research in Central Australia (1999-2001). Matthias received his PhD in Physical Geography (1999) and his MSc in Physical Geography and Landscape Ecology (1986) from Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Areas of Research / Teaching Expertise

Landscape ecology of fire-prone environments; (eco)hydrology of semiarid and arid environments; land degradation and desertification; spatial analysis and simulation modelling.

Awards and Recognition

Regular reviewer for international journals including:
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Ecosystems, Ecography, Frontiers in Ecology and The Environment, Geomorphology, Hydrology and Earth System Science, International Journal of Remote Sensing, International Journal of Wildland Fire, Journal of Arid Environments, Journal of Environmental Management, Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences, Journal of Vegetation Science, Land Degradation and Development, Landscape Ecology, Plant and Soil, Remote Sensing of Environment, Water Resources Research.

Grants / Current & Recent Projects

From hectares to tailor-made solutions for risk mitigation: systems to deliver effective prescribed burning across Australian ecosystems
Co-Researchers: Professor Ross Bradstock (Univ. Wollongong), Dr. Trent Penman (UMelb), Dr. Owen Price (Univ. Wollongong), Dr. Hamish Clarke (Univ. Wollongong, Western Sydney University)
Partner/Funding Body: Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC
Period: 2015-2018

When fire and water mix: do carbon dioxide-related water savings drive woody plant thickening and fire dynamics in a grassy woodland?
Co-Researchers: Professor David Ellsworth, Dr Victor Resco de Dios, Professor Ross Bradstock (Univ Wollongong)
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council, Discovery Grant
Period: 2013-2016

2009 Black Saturday and other large fire events – moisture conditions project
Co-researchers: Dr Víctor Resco De Dios, Professor Ross Bradstock (Univ. Wollongong), Dr Gabriele Caccamo (Univ. Wollongong)
Partner/Funding Body: Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre
Period: 2012-2014

Fire management of complex rehabilitated forests - quantifying and understanding spatial variability of forest structure and fuels
Co-researchers: Dr. Pauline Grierson (CI, University of Western Australia), Dr. Rohan Sadler (University of Western Australia).
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, Worsley Alumina
Period: 2008-2010

Multi-scale analysis of patterns in ecological processes in relation to fire regimes
Co-researchers: Dr. Pauline Grierson (CI, University of Western Australia), Dr. Rohan Sadler (University of Western Australia).
Partner/Funding Body: Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, Project B 4.2
Period: 2004-2010

Selected Research Images

In most Australian ecosystems fire is an important ecological disturbance, yet fire regimes vary significantly across the continent. Our research aims at understanding the spatiotemporal variation in fire regimes and the role of fire in moderating effects of global change.

Jarrah Forest, Mundaring Spinifex Country, The Pilbara Blue Mountains NSW, as seen from Wentworth Falls area

  • The Jarrah forests of SW Western Australia are among the most flammable in the world – since the 1960s most fires in these forests are prescribed burns
  • Fires affect huge areas of Australia's arid interior. Spinifex country in the Pilbara – Western Australia
  • Fire regimes are shaped by the interplay of climate, weather and topography - dry sclerophyllous forests of the Sydney basin

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Pfautsch S, Macfarlane C, Harbusch M, Wesolowski A, Smith R, Boer MM, Tjoelker MG, Reich PB, Adams MA, (2016) ', Vessel diameter and related hydraulic traits of 31 Eucalyptus species arrayed along a gradient of water availability', (accepted 24/02/2016, Ecology)

Boer MM, Bowman DMJS, Murphy BP, Cary GJ, Cochrane MA, Fensham RJ, Krawchuk MA, Price OF, De Dios VR, Williams RJ, Bradstock RA, (2016) 'Future changes in climatic water balance determine potential for transformational shifts in Australian fire regimes', Environmental Research Letters, vol.11, no.6, Article no.065002

Duursma RA, Gimeno TE, Boer MM, Crous KY, Tjoelker MG, Ellsworth DS, (2016) 'Canopy leaf area of a mature evergreen Eucalyptus woodland does not respond to elevated atmospheric [CO2] but tracks water availability', Global Change Biology, vol.22, no.4, pp 1666-1676

Karan M, Liddell M, Prober SM, Arndt S, Beringer J, Boer M, Cleverly J, Eamus D, Grace P, Van Gorsel E, Hero JM, Hutley L, Macfarlane C, Metcalfe D, Meyer W, Pendall E, Sebastian A, Wardlaw T, (2016) 'The Australian SuperSite Network: A continental, long-term terrestrial ecosystem observatory', Science of the Total Environment, vol.568, pp 1263-1274

Nolan RH, Boer MM, de Dios VR, Caccamo G, Bradstock RA, (2016) 'Large-scale, dynamic transformations in fuel moisture drive wildfire activity across southeastern Australia', Geophysical Research Letters, vol.43, no.9, pp 4229-4238

Nolan RH, Resco de Dios V, Boer MM, Caccamo G, Goulden ML, Bradstock RA, (2016) 'Predicting dead fine fuel moisture at regional scales using vapour pressure deficit from MODIS and gridded weather data', Remote Sensing of Environment, vol.174, pp 100-108

Boer MM, Price OF, Bradstock RA, (2015) 'Wildfires: Weigh policy effectiveness', Science, vol.350, p 920

de Dios VR, Fellows AW, Nolan RH, Boer MM, Bradstock RA, Domingo F, Goulden ML, (2015) 'A semi-mechanistic model for predicting the moisture content of fine litter', Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, vol.203, pp 64-73

Price OF, Penman TD, Bradstock RA, Boer MM, Clarke H, (2015) 'Biogeographical variation in the potential effectiveness of prescribed fire in south-eastern Australia', Journal of Biogeography, vol.42, no.11, pp 2234-2245

Bradstock R, Penman T, Boer M, Price O, Clarke H, (2014) 'Divergent responses of fire to recent warming and drying across south-eastern Australia', Global Change Biology, vol.20, no.5, pp 1412-1428

O'Donnell AJ, Boer MM, McCaw WL, Grierson PF, (2014) 'Scale-dependent thresholds in the dominant controls of wildfire size in semi-arid southwest Australia', Ecosphere, vol.5, no.7, Article no.93

Bowman DMJS, Murphy BP, Boer MM, Bradstock RA, Cary GJ, Cochrane MA, Fensham, Krawchuk MA, Price OF, Williams RJ, (2013) 'Forest fire management, climate change and the risk of catastrophic carbon losses', Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, vol.11, no.2, pp 66-67

Bradshaw CJA, Bowman DMJS, Bond NR, Murphy BP, Moore AD, Fordham DA, Thackway R, Lawes MJ, McCallum H, Gregory SD, Dalal RC, Boer MM, Lynch AJJ, Bradstock RA, Brook BW, Henry BK, Hunt LP, Fisher DO, Hunter D, Johnson CN, Keith DA, Lefroy EC, Penman TD, Meyer WS, Thomson JR, Thornton CM, VanDerWal J, Williams RJ, Keniger L, Specht A, (2013) 'Brave new green world - Consequences of a carbon economy for the conservation of Australian biodiversity', Biological Conservation, vol.161, pp 71-90

Murphy BP, Bradstock RA, Boer MM, Carter J, Cary GJ, Cochrane MA, Fensham RJ, Russell-Smith J, Williamson GJ, Bowman DMJS, (2013) 'Fire regimes of Australia: A pyrogeographic model system', Journal of Biogeography, vol.40, no.6, pp 1048-1058

Resco de Dios V, Díaz-Sierra R, Goulden ML, Barton CVM, Boer MM, Gessler A, Ferrio JP, Pfautsch S, Tissue DT, (2013) 'Woody clockworks: Circadian regulation of night-time water use in Eucalyptus globulus', New Phytologist, vol.200, no.3, pp 743-752

Bradstock RA, Boer MM, Cary GJ, Price OF, Williams RJ, Barrett D, Cook G, Gill AM, Hutley LBW, Keith H, Maier SW, Meyer M, Roxburgh SH, Russell-Smith J, (2012) 'Modelling the potential for prescribed burning to mitigate carbon emissions from wildfires in fire-prone forests of Australia', International Journal of Wildland Fire, vol.21, no.6, pp 629-638

Pekin BK, Boer MM, Wittkuhn RS, Macfarlane C, Grierson PF, (2012) Plant functional traits along environmental gradients in seasonally dry and fire-prone ecosystem', Journal of Vegetation Science, vol.23, no.4, pp 745-754

Pekin BK, Wittkuhn RS, Boer MM, Macfarlane C, Grierson PF, (2012) 'Response of plant species and life form diversity to variable fire histories and biomass in the jarrah forest of south-west Australia', Austral Ecology, vol.37, no.3, pp 330-338

Boer MM, Johnston P, Sadler RJ, (2011) 'Neighbourhood rules make or break spatial scale invariance in a classic model of contagious disturbance', Ecological Complexity, vol.8, no.4, pp 347–356

Faivre N, Roche P, Boer MM, McCaw L, Grierson PF, (2011) 'Characterization of landscape pyrodiversity in Mediterranean ecosystems – contrasts and similarities between south-western Australia and south-eastern France', Landscape Ecology, vol.26, no.4, pp 557-571

O'Donnell AJ, Boer MM, McCaw L, Grierson PF, (2011) 'Climatic anomalies drive wildfire occurrence and extent in semi-arid shrublands and woodlands of southwest Australia', Ecosphere, vol.2, no.11,  Article 127

O'Donnell AJ, Boer MM, McCaw L, Grierson PF, (2011) 'Vegetation and landscape connectivity control wildfire intervals in unmanaged semi-arid shrublands and woodlands in Australia', Journal of Biogeography, vol.38, no.1, pp 112-124

Pekin BK, Wittkuhn RS, Boer MM, Macfarlane C, Grierson PF, (2011) 'Plant functional traits along environmental gradients in seasonally dry and fire-prone ecosystem', Journal of Vegetation Science, vol.22, no.6, pp 1009-1020  

Sadler RJ, Hazelton M, Boer MM, Grierson PF, (2010) 'Deriving State-and-Transition Models from an Image Series of Grassland Pattern Dynamics', Ecological Modelling, vol.221, no.3, pp 433-444

O'Donnell A, Cullen LE, McCaw WL, Boer MM, Grierson PF, (2010) 'Dendroecological potential of Callitris preissii for dating historical fires in semi-arid shrublands of southern Western Australia', Dendrochronologia, vol.28, no,1, pp 37-47

Boer MM, Sadler RJ, Wittkuhn R, McCaw L, Grierson PF, (2009) 'Long-term impacts of prescribed burning on regional extent and incidence of wildfires – evidence from fifty years of active fire management in SW Australian forests', Forest Ecology and Management, vol.259, no.1, pp 132-142

Pekin BK, Boer MM, Macfarlane C, Grierson PF, (2009) 'Impacts of increased fire frequency and aridity on eucalypt forest structure, biomass and composition in southwest Australia', Forest Ecology and Management, vol.258, no.9, pp 2136-2142

Boer MM, Sadler RJ, Bradstock R, Gill AM, Grierson PF, (2008) 'Spatial scale invariance of southern Australian forest fires mirrors the scaling behaviour of fire-driving weather events', Landscape Ecology, vol.23, no.8, pp 899-913

Boer MM, Macfarlane C, Norris J, Sadler RJ, Grierson PF, (2008) 'Mapping burned areas and burn severity patterns in SW Australian eucalypt forest using remotely-sensed changes in leaf area index', Remote Sensing of Environment, vol.112, no.12, pp 4358-4369

Contreras S, Boer MM, Alcalá F, Domingo F, García M, Pulido-Bosch A, Puigdefábregas J, (2008) 'An ecohydrological modelling approach for assessing long-term water balances in semiarid karstic landscapes', Journal of Hydrology, vol.351, nos.1-2, pp 42-57

Boer MM, Puigdefábregas J, (2005) 'Effects of spatially-structured vegetation patterns on hillslope erosion rates in semiarid Mediterranean environments: a simulation study', Earth Surface Processes and Land Forms, vol.30, no.2, pp 149-167

Boer MM, Puigdefábregas J, (2005) 'Assessment of dryland condition using remotely sensed anomalies of vegetation index values', International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol.26, no.18, pp 4045-4065

Boer MM, Puigdefábregas J, (2003) 'Predicting potential vegetation index values as a reference for the assessment and monitoring of dryland condition', International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol.24, no.5, pp 1135-1141

Boer MM, Stafford Smith DM, (2003) 'A plant functional approach to the prediction of change in Australian rangeland vegetation under grazing and fire', Journal of Vegetation Science, vol.14, no.3, pp 333-344

Domingo F, Villagarcía L, Boer MM, Alados L, Puigdefabregas J, (2001) 'Evaluating the long-term water balance of arid zone stream bed vegetation using evapotranspiration modelling and hillslope runoff measurements', Journal of Hydrology, vol.243, nos.1-2, pp 17-30

Puigdefábregas J, Solé-Benet A, Gutiérrez L, Del Barrio G, Boer MM, (1999) 'Scales and processes of water and sediment redistribution in drylands: results from the Rambla Honda field site in Southeast Spain', Earth Science Reviews, vol.48, nos.1-2, pp 39-70

Puigdefábregas J, Del Barrio G, Boer MM, Gutiérrez L, Solé-Benet A, (1998) 'Differential responses of hillslope elements to rainfall events in a semi-arid area', Geomorphology, vol.23, nos.2-4, pp 337-351

Boer MM, Del Barrio G, Puigdefábregas J, (1996) 'Mapping soil depth classes in dry Mediterranean areas using terrain attributes derived from a digital elevation model', Geoderma, vol.72, nos.1-2, pp 99-118

Book Chapters

Williams RJ, Bradstock RA, Barrett D, Beringer J,  Boer MM,  Cary GJ,  Cook GD, Gill AM, Hutley LBW, Keith H, Maier SW,  Meyer CP, Price O,  Roxburgh SH, Russell-Smith J, (2011) 'Fire regimes and carbon in Australian  vegetation', in: Bradstock RA, Gill AM, Williams RJ (eds) Flammable Australia: fire regimes, biodiversity and ecosystems in a changing world. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Boer MM, Sadler RJ, Grierson PF (2008) 'Objective characterisation of fire regimes for science-based management of fire-prone landscapes', Proceedings of the International Bushfire Research Conference 'Fire, Environment and Society', Adelaide – Australia, 1-3 September 2008, pp 58-70

Boer MM, Norris J, Sadler RJ, Grierson PF (2006) 'Ecologically sustainable management of fire–prone landscapes in southern Australia: a complex systems point of view', in: Viegas DX (Ed.) Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Forest Fire Research, Figueira Da Foz – Portugal, 27-30 November 2006.

Kirkby MJ, Jones RJA, Irvine B, Gobin A, Govers G, Cerdan O, Van Rompaey AJJ, Le Bissonnais Y, Daroussin J, King D, Montanarella L, Grimm M, Vieillefont V, Puigdefabregas J, Boer MM, Kosmas C, Yassoglou N, Tsara M, Mantel S, Van Lynden GJ, Huting J, (2004) 'Pan-European Soil Erosion Risk Assessment: The PESERA Map, Version 1 October 2003. Explanation of Special Publication Ispra 2004 No.73 (S.P.I.04.73)', European Soil Bureau Research Report No.16, EUR 21176, 18pp. and 1 map in ISO B1format. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.


Boer MM, (1999) 'Assessment of dryland degradation: linking theory and practice through site water balance modelling', Netherlands Geographical Studies 251, KNAG - Utrecht, The Netherlands: 294p.