School of plant biology research Project ideas for Prospective 4th

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Germination and establishment ecology of invasive sea spurge (with Dr John Scott)

For plants, coastal foredunes are a highly mobile environment in which to establish and grow. Yet the exotic Mediterranean sea spurge is able to colonise this environment readily, resulting in a highly modified foredune community in many parts of southern Australia. As part of our broader work on characterising the invasion of sea spurge in Australia, this project will bring a plant ecophysiological perspective to investigating the mechanisms and processes that allow sea spurge to germinate, establish and then dominate.

Ecosystem transforming processes associated with bridal creeper invasion (with Prof Hans Lambers) Areas colonised by bridal creeper, a weed of national significance, have increased soil nutrients and exhibit post-colonisation loss of native species. A change in decomposition rates is also associated with the weed invasion. The project will examine the ecosystem changing processes associated with invasion by bridal creeper both in the laboratory and field, and test management options for restoring impacted ecosystems.

Understanding how urban trees become invasive weeds (with Ms Melinda Trudgen)

Non-native plants are an integral part of our urban environments, yet some of these species go on to become invasive weeds and threaten natural ecosystems. Rosewood (Tipuana tipu) is a street tree that has the potential to be highly invasive. Several projects are available to assess mechanisms which drive the shift from garden tree to invasive weed. These include investigating seed predation (animal frugivory; are lawn mowers a new urban ‘predator’?), or the effects of competition on germination and seedling establishment.

The role of bracken fern in ecosystem restoration (with Dr John Scott)

Bracken (Pteridium esculentum) is one of the most widespread ferns in the world. While native to WA, it can form monocultures to the exclusion of other plant species, including exotic grasses and blackberry, the latter being the main invasive weed of river banks in south west WA. Bracken is fire prone, helps prevent erosion, may facilitate forest regeneration, but can halve Eucalyptus seedling survival. This project will assess by experiments and field observations the interaction between bracken, blackberry and riparian plant species regeneration in a south west WA context.

The invasion ecology of blackberry (with Dr John Scott)

A lack of knowledge on blackberry (Rubus anglocandicans) seed and seedling ecology is one of the main barriers to understanding the role of this major invasive species in riparian systems of south west Australia. The project will measure factors associated with seed germination and seedling establishment and growth using field experiments and observations. Seedling growth will also be studied in controlled temperature cabinets and with differing soil types and moisture regimes, providing data to underpin niche modelling.

Climate change at regional scales (with Dr John Scott)

Most of the modelling of climate change occurs at the national or state scale, but this is usually not the scale used for conservation planning. Planning for invasive plant management, ecosystem restoration and climate change at the regional requires a consideration of multiple interlocking questions. What are the vegetation characteristics that need to be considered? Which species are suitable for transplantation or control? How do regional scale and climate change scales overlap? These issues are being considered at a range of regional locations in WA with an opportunity to gain real experience in real-world climate change planning.



Senior Plant Pathologist, Department of Agriculture and Food, South Perth Ph: 9368 3533; Email:
Phenotyping for seedling and adult plant resistance to yellow spot of wheat in a doubled haploid mapping population fixed for 5BL locus

The project deals with evaluation of seedling and adult plant response to yellow spot in controlled environment conditions. Good progress has been made internationally to understand resistance to yellow spot (causal fungus Pyrenophora tritici-repentis) of wheat and this work has helped identify the main resistance factor in Australian germplasm being toxin insensitivity at the 5BL locus, tsn1. Limited understanding exists on the extent of occurrence of tsn1 in Australian breeding material and yet there appears to be considerable variation in response to yellow spot resistance among tsn1 carrying lines that could, when understood, provide significant opportunity to enhance expression of resistance in Australian germplasm, additional to the moderate resistance achieved with the 5BL tsn1 locus.

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