Michael I Bird

Michael I Bird
James Cook University · College of Science and Engineering

46.05
 · 
PhD

About

377
Publications
100,742
Reads
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15,919
Citations
Introduction
I trained as a geologist at U. Sydney and the ANU (PhD 1988). After a postdoc at UWO in Canada, I returned to Australia as Research Fellow, QEII Fellow at Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU. In 2000 I took up a position in Singapore and in 2004, a Chair at St. Andrews, Scotland. In 2009 I returned to Australia as an ARC Federation Fellow and Laureate Fellow at JCU. My research interests include the terrestrial carbon cycle, biochar, geoarchaeology and environmental change in the tropics.
Research Experience
November 2019 - present
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Position
  • Distinguished Professor
October 2014 - October 2019
James Cook University
Position
  • ARC Laureate Fellow
June 2010 - present
James Cook University
Position
  • Distinguished Professor
Education
March 1984 - September 1988
Australian National University
Field of study
  • Geochemistry
March 1978 - December 1983
Australian National University
Field of study
  • Geology

Publications

Publications (377)
Article
Full-text available
Pyrogenic carbon (PyC; includes soot, char, black carbon, and biochar) is produced by the incomplete combustion of organic matter accompanying biomass burning and fossil fuel consumption. PyC is pervasive in the environment, distributed throughout the atmosphere as well as soils, sediments, and water in both the marine and terrestrial environment....
Article
Full-text available
The Pleistocene global dispersal of modern humans required the transit of arid and semiarid regions where the distribution of potable water provided a primary constraint on dispersal pathways. Here, we provide a spatially explicit continental-scale assessment of the opportunities for Pleistocene human occupation of Australia, the driest inhabited c...
Article
The magnitude of future climate change could be moderated by immediately reducing the amount of CO2entering the atmosphere as a result of energy generation and by adopting strategies that actively remove CO2from it. Biogeochemical improvement of soils by adding crushed, fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands is one such CO2-removal strategy. Thi...
Article
Full-text available
An environmental history is presented from Girraween Lagoon, Darwin region of the Northern Territory, Australia. Pollen and charcoal analysis of a 5-meter sediment core provides a record of vegetation change, fire history and climate spanning 12,700 cal BP to the present day. This study focusses on tree-grass vegetation dynamics, eucalypt to non-eu...
Article
Full-text available
The first peopling of Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and the Aru Islands joined at lower sea levels) by anatomically modern humans required multiple maritime crossings through Wallacea, with at least one approaching 100 km. Whether these crossings were accidental or intentional is unknown. Using coastal-viewshed analysis and ocean drift modelling com...
Article
Full-text available
The magnitude of the terrestrial carbon (C) sink may be overestimated globally due to the difficulty of accounting for all C losses across heterogeneous landscapes. More complete assessments of net landscape C balances (NLCB) are needed that integrate both emissions by fire and transfer to aquatic systems, two key loss pathways of terrestrial C. Th...
Article
Northern Australia is a region where limited information exists on environments at the last glacial maximum (LGM). Girraween Lagoon is located on the central northern coast of Australia and is a site representative of regional tropical savanna woodlands. Girraween Lagoon remained a perennial waterbody throughout the LGM, and as a result retains a c...
Article
Full-text available
The Southern Ocean occupies 14% of the Earth’s surface and plays a fundamental role in the global carbon cycle and climate. It provides a direct connection to the deep ocean carbon reservoir through biogeochemical processes that include surface primary productivity, remineralization at depth and the upwelling of carbon-rich water masses. However, t...
Article
Full-text available
As tropical savannas are undergoing rapid conversion to other land uses, native C3‐C4 vegetation mixtures are often transformed to C3‐ or C4‐dominant systems, resulting in poorly understood changes to the soil carbon (C) cycle. Conventional models of the soil C cycle are based on assumptions that more labile components of the heterogenous soil orga...
Article
The Quaternary stratigraphy of many coastal areas in Southeast Asia is poorly understood. Developing a detailed framework is important as many coastal cities are built on these unconsolidated coastal-marine sediments. This study reviews the current understanding of Quaternary deposits in the Kallang River Basin, Singapore, using 161 boreholes to cr...
Article
Insects encode proxy environmental information about regional vegetation structure in the stable carbon isotope (δ¹³C) composition of their tissues. However, uncertainty lies in the exact relationship between “community” insect δ¹³C values and the overall structure of the vegetation from which the insects come, specifically the cover of C3 and C4 p...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past decades, paleoenvironmental studies in the Indian summer monsoon region have mainly focused on precipitation change, with few published terrestrial temperature records from the region. We analysed the distribution of isoprenoid glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (isoGDGTs) in the sediments of Lake Chenghai in southwest China across...
Article
Irreversible shifts of large-scale components of the Earth system (so-called ‘tipping elements’) on policy-relevant timescales are a major source of uncertainty for projecting the impacts of future climate change. The high latitudes are particularly vulnerable to positive feedbacks that amplify change through atmosphere-ocean-ice interactions. Unfo...
Article
Full-text available
An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
Article
Full-text available
The future response of the Antarctic ice sheet to rising temperatures remains highly uncertain. A useful period for assessing the sensitivity of Antarctica to warming is the Last Interglacial (LIG) (129 to 116 ky), which experienced warmer polar temperatures and higher global mean sea level (GMSL) (+6 to 9 m) relative to present day. LIG sea level...
Article
Full-text available
The riverine export of carbon is expected to be driven by changes in connectivity between source areas and streams. Yet we lack a thorough understanding of the relative contributions of different water sources to the dissolved carbon flux, and of the way these contributions vary with seasonal changes in flow connectivity. Here we assess the tempora...
Article
Rationale: Rapid, reliable isolation of Pyrogenic Carbon (PyC; char, soot, black carbon; biochar) for determination of stable carbon isotope (δ13 C) composition and radiocarbon (14 C) dating is needed across multiple fields of research in geoscience, environmental science and archaeology. Many current techniques do not provide reliable isolation f...
Article
Full-text available
Pyrogenic Carbon (PyC) is ubiquitous in global environments, and is now known to form a significant, and dynamic component of the global carbon cycle, with at least some forms of PyC persisting in their depositional environment for many millennia. Despite this, the factors that determine the turnover of PyC remain poorly understood, as do the physi...
Article
Full-text available
Biochar-based compound fertilizers (BCF) and amendments have proven to enhance crop yields and modify soil properties (pH, nutrients, organic matter, structure etc.) and are now in commercial production in China. While there is a good understanding of the changes in soil properties following biochar addition, the interactions within the rhizosphere...
Article
Riverine Plain palaeochannels record periods of fluvial activity for Late Pleistocene southeastern Australia. In an attempt to develop a more detailed palaeoenvironmental record for this semi-arid region, we investigate the fine overbank sediments of the palaeochannel fill that cap and underlie the coarser-grained fluvial channel sands of the Tombu...
Article
Understanding the long-term functioning of Australia's tropical savannas is central to the management and conservation of these ecosystems. An environmental history of the Darwin region's mesic savanna is presented from Girraween Lagoon, approx. 25 km southeast of Darwin, where pollen and charcoal analysis of a 5 metre sediment core provides a reco...
Article
The ‘tropics’ refers to an area that is loosely equatorial, characterized by relatively high temperatures (at low altitude), comparatively low seasonal contrast in temperatures and generally high, or highly seasonal, rainfall. The stable isotopes of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen are increasingly important tools of relevance to understanding trajector...
Article
Full-text available
We present precipitation isotope data (δ2H and δ18O values) from 19 stations across the tropics collected from 2012 to 2017 under the Coordinated Research Project F31004 sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rainfall samples were collected daily and analysed for stable isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen by participating laborator...
Article
Full-text available
We present precipitation isotope data (δ2H and δ18O values) from 19 stations across the tropics collected from 2012 to 2017 under the Coordinated Research Project F31004 sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rainfall samples were collected daily and analysed for stable isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen by participating laborator...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past few decades, paleoenvironmental studies in the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) region have mainly focused on precipitation change, with few published terrestrial temperature records from the region. We analyzed the distribution of isoprenoid glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (isoGDGTs) in the sediments of Lake Chenghai in southwest Ch...
Article
High‐frequency stable isotope data are useful for validating atmospheric moisture circulation models and provide improved understanding of the mechanisms controlling isotopic compositions in tropical rainfall. Here we present a near‐continuous 6‐month record of O‐ and H‐isotope compositions in both water vapour and daily rainfall from Northeast Aus...
Conference Paper
A series of palaeochannel facies throughout the Riverine plain of southeastern Australia reflect environmental conditions spanning the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. The Gum Creek (41-29 ka) and Yanco (29-18 ka) palaeochannels both provide evidence of significant late Pleistocene fluvial activity, likely connected to increased spring snow melt from...
Presentation
Fire has a long history of interaction with Australian ecosystems but poses a growing risk as future climate change is predicted to lengthen fire seasons and increase extreme fire weather. Tropical savannas cover almost one quarter (1.9 million km2) of the Australian land mass, and fire occurs here almost annually. A greater understanding of past f...
Article
The long-standing perspective that recalcitrance of soil organic carbon (SOC) controls its stability and persistence has shifted to one in which physical inaccessibility of SOC to microorganisms plays a predominant role. This paradigm shift has been facilitated by analytical techniques that isolate SOC into physical fractions protected from decompo...
Article
Full-text available
The timing, context and nature of the first people to enter Sahul is still poorly understood owing to a fragmented archaeological record. However, quantifying the plausible demographic context of this founding population is essential to determine how and why the initial peopling of Sahul occurred. We developed a stochastic, age-structured model usi...
Article
Full-text available
Determining the feedbacks that modulate Southern Ocean carbon dynamics is key to understanding past and future climate. The global pause in rising atmospheric CO2 during the period of mid- to high-latitude southern surface cooling known as the Antarctic Cold Reversal (ACR, 14,700-12,700 years ago) provides an opportunity to disentangle competing in...
Article
Full-text available
We present Bayesian modelling on a long sequence of radiocarbon ages from the archaeological site of Nawarla Gabarnmang, central Arnhem Land plateau, northern Australia. A horizon of wind-borne sediments containing flaked stone artefacts and charcoal commencing >45,610 cal BP (the young end of the modelled boundary age range, which extends beyond t...
Article
Full-text available
Equatorial Southeast Asia is a key region for global climate change. Here, the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP) is a critical driver of atmospheric convection that plays a dominant role in global atmospheric circulation. However, fluctuating sea-levels during the Pleistocene produced the most drastic land-sea area changes on Earth, with the now-drowne...
Article
Full-text available
Despite recent evidence suggesting that groundwater inputs of inorganic carbon to rivers can contribute substantially to fluvial CO2 evasion, groundwater is seldom integrated into fluvial carbon budgets. Also unclear is the way equilibria between CO2 and ionic forms of carbonate will affect CO2 evasion from rivers. We conducted longitudinal river s...
Conference Paper
The Southern Ocean plays a fundamental role in regulating global atmospheric CO2 levels, yet the underlying processes and feedbacks that control the carbon cycle during climate transitions remain unclear. Following the Last Glacial Termination (LGT), the rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 was interrupted by an enigmatic 1,900-year plateau during a perio...
Preprint
The future response of the Antarctic ice sheets to rising temperatures remains highly uncertain. A valuable analogue for assessing the sensitivity of Antarctica to warming is the Last Interglacial (129-116 kyr), when global sea level peaked 6 to 9 meters above present. Here we report a blue-ice record of ice-sheet and environmental change from the...
Article
This study reports palynological and geochemical results for modern and ancient sediments from 19 lakes on a rainfall gradient (784e1880 mm), across a range of savannas in Northern Australia. All proxies varied significantly across the range of sites examined, providing a robust envelope of values that can reliably be employed to identify a savanna...
Article
Pyrolized carbon in biochar can sequester atmospheric CO 2 into soil to reduce impacts of anthropogenic CO 2 emissions. When estimating the stability of biochar, degradation of biochar carbon, mobility of degradation products, and ingress of carbon from other sources must all be considered. In a previous study we tracked degradation in biochars pro...
Conference Paper
Palaeochannels associated with the Riverine Plain NSW, Australia provide evidence of past runoff conditions throughout the last glacial cycle during the generally cold and often inferred to be dry Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; 20-17 ka BP). OSL and TL dating of fluvial deposits (Mueller et al. 2018) of the Gum Creek (41-29 ka BP) and Yanco (29-18 ka B...
Article
Full-text available
In the version of this Perspective originally published, ‘acidification’ was incorrectly spelt as ‘adification’ in Fig. 4. This has now been corrected.
Article
Full-text available
Pyrogenic carbon (PyC) is a polyaromatic residue of the incomplete combustion of biomass or fossil fuels. There is a growing recognition that PyC forms an important part of carbon budgets, due to production rates of 116–385 Tg C yr, and the size and ubiquity of PyC stocks in global carbon reservoirs. At least a proportion of PyC exists in a highly...
Article
Full-text available
Soils hold the largest pool of organic carbon (C) on Earth; yet, soil organic carbon (SOC) reservoirs are not well represented in climate change mitigation strategies because our database for ecosystems where human impacts are minimal is still fragmentary. Here, we provide a tool for generating a global baseline of SOC stocks. We used partial least...
Article
Full-text available
This work provides a comprehensive physically based framework for the interpretation of the north Australian rainfall stable isotope record (δ18O and δ2H). Until now interpretations mainly relied on statistical relationships between rainfall amount and isotopic values on monthly timescales. Here we use multi‐season daily rainfall stable isotope and...
Article
Full-text available
Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) dispersed rapidly through island southeast Asia (Sunda and Wallacea) and into Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and the Aru Islands), before 50,000 years ago. Multiple routes have been proposed for this dispersal and all involve at least one multi-day maritime voyage approaching 100 km. Here we use new regional-scale ba...
Poster
The Southern Ocean plays a fundamental role in regulating global atmospheric CO2 levels, yet the underlying processes and feedbacks that control carbon cycle during climate transitions remain unclear. Following the last glacial, the rapid and punctuated rise in atmospheric CO2 was interrupted by an enigmatic 1,900-year plateau during a period of pr...
Poster
The Weddell Sea Embayment (WSE) drains some 20% of the ice-mass of continental Antarctica, including sectors of the East and West Antarctic ice sheets and the Antarctic Peninsula, and plays a major role in the global ocean-climate system. Unfortunately, the WSE suffers from a relative dearth of records, limiting our understanding of multi-decadal t...
Presentation
The Last Interglacial (130 to 116 thousand years ago) is widely considered to have been warmer than today, but the timing and contribution of Antarctica to global sea level rise during this period remains uncertain. Here we report a new highly-resolved blue ice record close to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet grounding line that implies high-latitude o...
Presentation
Reconstructing the dynamic response of the Antarctic ice sheets to warming during the Last Glacial Termination (LGT; 18,000–11,650 yrs ago) allows us to disentangle ice-climate feedbacks that are key to improving future projections. Whilst the sequence of events during this period is reasonably well known, relatively poor chronological control has...
Article
Full-text available
RATIONALE Continuous measurement of stable O and H isotope compositions in water vapour requires automated calibration for remote field deployments. We developed a new low‐cost device for calibration of both water vapour mole fraction and isotope composition. METHODS We coupled a commercially available dew point generator (DPG) to a laser spectrom...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the main factors driving fire regimes in grasslands and savannas is critical to better manage their biodiversity and functions. Moreover, improving our knowledge on pyrogenic carbon (PyC) dynamics, including formation, transport and deposition, is fundamental to better understand a significant slow-cycling component of the global carb...
Presentation
Wind- and water-borne charcoal particles deposited in sediments are a critical source of information on past fire occurrence. These can be found preserved in a wide range of environmental and cultural contexts. Micro-charcoal counts are commonly included as part of pollen analysis; macro-charcoal particles are less frequently investigated, and char...
Article
Full-text available
Pyrogenic carbon (PyC) and n-alkane data from sediments in the northern South China Sea reveal variations in material from C4 plants in East Asia over the last ~19 Ma. These data indicate the likely presence of C4 taxa during the earliest part of the record analysed, with C4 species also prominent during the mid and late Miocene and especially the...
Article
Full-text available
Amazon Basin forest soils contain considerable soil organic carbon stocks; however, the contribution of soil pyrogenic carbon (PyC) to the total is unknown. PyC is derived from local fires (historical and modern) and external inputs via aeolian deposition. To establish an initial estimate of PyC stocks in non-terra preta forest with no known histor...
Article
Full-text available
Multiple nutrient deficiencies related to severe soil fertility depletion have emerged as the major constraint to the sustainability of agriculture on a global scale. Use of biochar and biochar-compost mixtures from different alternative organic sources have been proposed as an option for improving soil fertility, restoring degraded land, and mitig...
Article
Full-text available
Amazon forests are fire-sensitive ecosystems and consequently fires affect forest structure and composition. For instance, the legacy of past fire regimes may persist through some species and traits that are found due to past fires. In this study, we tested for relationships between functional traits that are classically presented as the main compo...
Article
Full-text available
Our ability to model global carbon fluxes depends on understanding how terrestrial carbon stocks respond to varying environmental conditions. Tropical forests contain the bulk of the biosphere's carbon. However, there is a lack of consensus as to how gradients in environmental conditions affect tropical forest carbon. Papua New Guinea (PNG) lies wi...
Article
Isotope signals derived from molluscan shell carbonates allow researchers to investigate palaeoenvironments and the timing and periodicity of depositional events. However, it cannot be assumed that all molluscan taxa provide equally useful data owing to species-specific biological and ecological traits. The Mud Shell, Geloina erosa (Lightfoot, 1786...
Article
We report results of a study examining controls on the degradation of chars produced at 300, 400 and 500 °C from radiocarbon-free wood, deployed for three years in a humid tropical rainforest soil in north Queensland, Australia. The chars were subjected to four treatments (i) no litter (ii) covered by leaf litter, (iii) covered by limestone chips t...