Our research focuses on the interactions of plants with their environment and the processes that control the functioning of ecosystems. We investigate how trees, shrubs and herbs cope with changes in environmental conditions, for example, how they manage to survive with increasing temperatures or decreasing rainfall. We study the impact of the environment on plant physiological, biochemical and structural properties and on their interactions with other organisms (e.g. animals, microbes).
We examine how entire ecosystems respond to change, and how the cycling of different essential elements, like nitrogen, carbon or water, is influenced by environmental changes or disturbances like fire. We measure how much carbon is absorbed by natural ecosystems, and quantify how climate variation and fire influence their growth and their uptake or release of greenhouse gases.
Our research allows the detailed assessment of plant performance under environmental stress and this allows us to predict which plant species will persist or not under future climate and disturbance regimes. This means we are able to assess the vulnerability of tree species in native forests or urban streets, and to select plants for restored or designed ecosystems like green roofs and walls.
Our research also provides an assessment of critical ecosystem services, like carbon storage, water cycling, and climate amelioration, and how these are impacted by management decisions or disturbance. This information assists managers of natural and designed ecosystems to develop policies for environmental sustainability.
Our research tries to answer the following questions:
- What limits the growth and survival of plants?
- How do different plants respond to environmental stresses like drought and extreme heat, and what does this mean for their persistence under future climates?
- To what extent will plant responses to environmental stresses impact on the provision of ecosystem services like carbon storage, water cycling and climate amelioration?
Answers to these questions are central to informing land management, plant conservation, and climate adaptation and mitigation policies, and to identify how we can sustainably live within our changing natural environment.
More Physiological and Ecosystem Ecology
- Cristina Aponte (Research Fellow), Cristina is an ecosystem ecologist whose research focuses on the effects of management and climate change on forest carbon at different spatial and temporal scales.
- Prof. Stefan Arndt, Stefan researches how plants adapt to environmental stresses and investigates how forest ecosystems respond to climate change.
- Lauren Bennett (Senior Research Fellow), Lauren's research focuses on effects of disturbances, like fire and climate change, on the ecosystem processes that underpin carbon and nutrient cycles.
- Claire Farrell, Claire investigates the use of plants to make Australian cities more liveable. Designing green roofs for drought tolerance, stormwater mitigation and improved biodiversity.
- Benedikt Fest, Benedikt is an ecosystem ecologist, who investigates the magnitude of and the processes behind soil greenhouse gas fluxes including how they vary temporally and spatially in natural and man-made ecosystems.
- Sabine Kasel (Senior Research Fellow), Sabine is an ecologist, her research investigates the effects of management and climate change on ecosystem processes in native forests and restored landscapes.
- Rebecca Miller, Rebecca is an ecophysiologist interested in the physiological and biochemical responses of plants to the environment, including the chemical ecology of plant-herbivore and plant-pollinator interactions.
- Chris Szota, Chris studies how plants improve the effectiveness of engineered vegetated systems, like green roofs, street tree pits and raingardens, in reducing the volume of polluted stormwater entering urban waterways.
- Virginia Williamson, Virginia is a plant physiologist who researches xylem dysfunction and the response of plants to drought stress, wounding and microbial colonisation.
- Pengzhen (Peggy) Du, Pengzhen's research focuses on green roofs for Australian conditions, through substrate design and plant selection to optimize environmental performance.
- Anne Griebel, Anne researches how carbon and water fluxes vary with season and how this seasonal variability impacts structural growth patterns in a eucalypt forest.
- Nina Hinko Najera, Nina's research focuses on the seasonal variability of soil respiration dynamics in a eucalypt forest, their response to climate change and contribution to the forest’s carbon balance.
- Carola Pritzkow, Carola researches how different Eucalypt species adjust their leaf physiological and wood traits in order to cope with drought stress.
- Gregor Sanders, Gregor is investigating how physiological functions associated with drought tolerance change across climate gradients in eucalypts.
- Tom Sayers, Tom investigates thermogenesis and the chemical ecology of plant-pollinator interactions in endemic Australian Araceae.
- Merryn Smith, Merryn is researching carbohydrate energy reserve storage and dynamics in eucalypt trees, particularly in the context of resprouting.
- Gert Hoy Talbo
- Julio Najera, Julio is the technical officer providing professional support to scientists and postgraduate students with the research in the Landscape Carbon, biodiversity and associated fire behaviour research projects.