School of plant biology research Project ideas for Prospective 4th

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Evolutionary history and identification of refugia

Refugia have intrinsic conservation value because they facilitate the local persistence of species and genotypes when regional conditions are unsuitable, and foster evolutionary processes that may lead to diversification. Phylogeographic analyses can identify the presence of refugia that are characterised by genetic signatures of high diversity, with low diversity in areas of expansion, or patterns of localised persistence. This project will combine cpDNA sequence analysis with paleo- distributional modeling to investigate evolutionary patterns in areas of topographic complexity or projected climate stability that are likely to have acted as refugia in the past and may do so under projected climate change.
Further Information: Dr Margaret Byrne, Ph 9219 9078 Dr Colin Yates, Ph 9219 9079

RESEARCH THEME: Seed biology and reintroductions of threatened flora
Assessment of temperature thresholds for seed germination in south west Western Australian species in relation to climate change scenarios

Current climate models predict rising temperatures and declining winter rainfall across much of fire- prone southern Western Australia. These changes have the potential to impact on the Region’s rich plant diversity. One plant characteristic that may respond to climate change is germination, with some species possibly vulnerable to even modest changes in temperature. Successful regeneration after disturbance such as fire may be adversely affected. This project would see the screening of selected SW WA species for their tolerance to a range of temperatures during germination and early seedling performance to provide a more precise understanding of the likely impact of predicted rising temperatures on these critical periods in a plants life cycle.

Further Information: Dr Anne Cochrane,
Development of guidelines for use of artificial disturbance in flora management and threatened species recovery

The process of plant colonisation and establishment in many areas has been altered through human intervention and the management of threatened flora is increasingly relying on artificial disturbance to stimulate recruitment. Despite knowing that many threatened species require disturbance for recruitment, application of artificial disturbance treatments often fail to achieve their desired outcome. The nature, frequency and timing of disturbance are important for successful recruitment but using limited seed resources of threatened flora from ex situ collections in field investigations can be wasteful. With limited seed resources, it may be more appropriate to germinate seed under controlled conditions (eg temperature, moisture, predators) and plant the resultant seedlings. In the light of this, it would be prudent to establish disturbance guidelines based on surrogate common species as a priority. This project would investigate the nature of artificial disturbance that would provide the most effective result for recruitment and survival for plant species and to provide guidelines for their use in flora management and threatened species reintroduction.

Further Information: Dr Anne Cochrane,
Good things come in small packages: seed biology of the triggerplants

Stylidium (the triggerplants) is a large and iconic plant group with more than 250 species in Western Australia, a significant proportion of which are rare, geographically restricted or poorly known. The genus is the subject of ongoing taxonomic research and seed banking efforts within DEC, however, to date there has been little research conducted on aspects of seed biology and morphology. This project will investigate the germination characteristics, and seedling growth forms of both common and rare, and annual and perennial species of Stylidium. It will provide information fundamental to the conservation and management of threatened triggerplants.

Further Information: Dr Andrew Crawford, Dr Anne Cochrane,

Dr Juliet Wege,
Determining success criteria for reintroductions of threatened plants

Plant reintroductions are now recognised as a key management tool for preventing the extinction of species in the wild. They involve the planting of seed, seedlings or vegetatively propagated plants into an area where the plant formerly or currently occurs or to a new safe location. Plant reintroductions aim to create and maintain viable self sustaining populations, yet developing criteria that can readily assess this objective is difficult, particularly in long lived woody shrubs that make up many of Western Australia’s Critically Endangered Plants. This project will assess the use of novel techniques that may include eco-physiological approaches, use of molecular markers to estimate mating systems and population viability analysis as possible indicators of long term reintroduction success.

Further Information: Leonie Monks,

Dr Colin Yates, Ph 9219 9079 Dr David Coates, Ph 9219 9048

Dr Margaret Byrne, Ph 9219 9078
RESEARCH THEME: Control and management of Phytophthora dieback

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