Re-seeding the forests with native plants
Rehabilitation of mined landscapes in the Jarrah Forest ecosystems of south-west Western Australia involves large-scale application of species-rich seed mixes. To improve seed use efficiency for species with problematic propagation requirements this project aims to develop a range of ecologically informed dormancy and seed enhancement technology applications.
Within a PhD program there is the potential to study a number of areas focussed on seed recruitment ecology of problematic species (such as for seeds from the Hibbertia genus):
- Intra- and inter-specific variation between populations or collections years. This could include laboratory-based measures of depth of initial seed dormancy amongst populations, defined through response to smoke (including focus on plasticity in smoke response), and wet/dry and stratification treatments to characterise species or population differences and to refine procedures to increase the germination response.
- Dormancy status/cycling in the soil seed bank (and role of smoke in this) through burial and retrieval studies, to examine dormancy loss in soil, including timing of onset and rate of embryo-growth, timing and rate of emergence, seed persistence in soil. These types of burial experiments have not been conducted in detail for Jarrah forest ecosystems, and they could include comparisons of seeds in forest vs rehab sites.
- The efficacy of the lab-based dormancy pre-treatments in promoting seedling emergence of seeds sown in rehabilitation, overlayed with timing of seed sowing, or other treatments including priming in smoke/KAR, could also be a focus.
- Along with the ecophysiology work, experiments would encompass approaches to develop reliable and practical germination promoting pre-treatments. Based on previous work, this would focus at least initially on variations of wet/dry cycling treatments, including efforts to simplify the number of steps whilst maximising the benefit and repeatability (through considering timing/duration of exposure to different temperatures or watering treatments, the role of light/dark at different stages, timing of application of smoke).
- Develop ecologically informed seed dormancy break treatments for species with problematic germination requirements from Jarrah Forest mine rehabilitation programs
- Combine improved dormancy management with the application of seed enhancement technologies (i.e. flash flaming, priming, pelleting, coating) through a series of laboratory-, glasshouse-, and field-based studies
- Scale seed dormancy break and SET treatments using custom-built machinery
- Quantify scaled seed use, seedling recruitment and rehabilitation performance across different mining environments and seasons.
- Masarei MI, Erickson TE, Merritt DJ, Hobbs RJ, Guzzomi AL (2020) Engineering restoration for the future. Ecological Engineering.
- Merritt DJ, Turner SR, Clarke S, Dixon KW (2007) Seed dormancy and germination stimulation syndromes for Australian temperate species. Australian Journal of Botany 55, 336-344.
- Erickson TE, Munoz-Rojas M, et al. (2019) A case study of seed-use technology development for Pilbara mine site rehabilitation. In '13th International Conference on Mine Closure. ' (Eds AB Fourie and M Tibbett) pp. 679-692.
- Hoyle GL, Daws MI, Steadman KJ, Adkins SW (2008) Mimicking a semi-arid tropical environment achieves dormancy alleviation for seeds of Australian native Goodeniaceae and Asteraceae. Annals of Botany 101, 701-708.
- Dalziell EL, Erickson TE, Hidayati SN, Walck JL, Merritt DJ. 2018. Alleviation of morphophysiological dormancy in seeds of the Australian arid-zone endemic shrub, Hibbertia glaberrima F. Muell.(Dilleniaceae). Seed Science Research, 28: 286-293.
- Hidayati SN, Walck JL, Merritt DJ, Turner SR, Turner DW, Dixon KW. 2012. Sympatric species of Hibbertia (Dilleniaceae) vary in dormancy break and germination requirements: implications for classifying morphophysiological dormancy in Mediterranean biomes. Annals of Botany, 109: 1111-1123.
- Schatral A. 1996. Dormancy in Seeds of Hibbertia hypericoides (Dilleniaceae). Australian Journal of Botany, 44: 213-222.
ive Goodeniaceae and Asteraceae. Annals of Botany 101, 701-708.
I am a restoration ecologist working specifically on the improved and scaled used of native seeds in degraded environments; I am in the School of Biological Sciences at UWA. My research is focused on using seed enhancement technologies and the precision placement of these seeds in restoration sites. I am interested in how we can develop practitioner friendly tools to overcome complex seed dormancy and recruitment bottlenecks that then enable these seeds to recruit and survive in hostile environments, particularly highly degraded or dryland environments.
How to Apply
- To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
- Requirements specific to this project:
- Experience in undertaking field work in remote environments
- Preferred knowledge of seed ecology and dormancy mechanisms
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- After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact email@example.com to proceed with your application