Postgraduate Profiles

Siobhan Sullivan

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Thesis: Effect of water availability and subsequent drought on plant establishment, performance and resilience on iron ore mine waste in semi-arid Western Australia

Rainfall in the semi-arid regions of Western Australia is highly variable and therefore opportunities for plant establishment are very limited in most years. While pertinent to conservation and restoration success, very little is known about the influence of water availability on the successful recruitment of plants in natural and restored plant communities. To address this, field and glasshouse trials will be established to observe seedling emergence, morphology, physiology and survival in native soil and iron ore mine waste. Plant traits associated with growth and drought tolerance will be quantified to investigate if development under different soil water availabilities influences susceptibility to subsequent drought periods. These trials will also determine whether high degrees of plant phenotypic plasticity (as indicated by large intraspecific variation in response to changes in water availability) are present and dependent on plant species distribution.

Why my research is important

The results from this study will provide a greater understanding of how species traits, including plastic responses, influence establishment success and therefore community composition. Such insights will assist in forecasting the effects of climate change and planning and managing ecological restoration.

Funding

Apr 2016

Sep 2019