Xylem Pit Membrane Physiology in Callitris Species
Drought-induced forest dieback as a consequence of recent climate change has been reported worldwide.These events are grown more frequent during the past decade and suggest that no forest type or climate zone is invulnerable to rapid change in climate and modelling predicts that the risks of tree mortality and species extinction will only increase, with great adverse impact on species distributions and associated ecosystems. However, these predictions may be far from realistic as heterogeneous responses to climate change within a species is directly connected with intra-specific variability of traits favourable to the environment.
Trait variability can be a result of local adaptation, irreversible trait expression due to genetic variation between populations, a consequence of species evolution under isolated conditions or differences in selection pressures. Alternatively, trait variability can be the result of phenotypic plasticity, the amount by which a trait can be modified to suit its environment without permanent genetic variation. Phenotypic plasticity is of particular importance in predicting dynamics at population boundaries. At the trailing edge of a species' distribution, plasticity can buffer population declines and influence the potential of the species to adapt to in a broader range of environmental conditions.
This project will compare hydraulically-linked traits responsible for drought resistance, including vulnerability to embolism, at a plant, population and species level, determine the extent of trait variation in core and trailing populations and how plastic they are. By contributing to the global database of plant hydraulic traits my research aims to meet the challenge of improving species distribution forecasts of Callitris glaucophylla and similar species as well as the ecosystems they feedback into.
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A/Professor Brendan Choat, Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, Professor David Ellsworth