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Eucalypt resilience in restoration and revegetation investigated

Thursday, 26 April 2012 10:00

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Eucalyptus tricarpaEucalypts were chosen because the genus is one of the few to have its genome completely sequenced and therefore available for reference purposes during the study. Image: Elizabeth DonoghueA WA researcher has received a national grant to examine climate adaptation in plants species used for landscape restoration.

Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) Dr Margaret Byrne has received a Climate Change Adaptation Research Grant through the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).

The $298,000 grant will fund her study into whether certain Eucalypt species distributed over a large area are adapted to climate change or are tolerant of a range of climates. This will determine where plants for restoration projects can be sourced from.

The study will focus on two Eucalypt species: Gimlet Gum (Eucalpytus salubris) and Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa).

Eucalypts were chosen because the genus is one of the few to have its genome completely sequenced and therefore available for reference purposes during the study.

Both the physiological traits and patterns of genetic variation between several populations of each species along a temperature and rainfall gradient will be analysed.

This will then help to determine whether a species will be better suited for a restoration or revegetation project in the area it is sourced from, or another area further along the gradient where it may have already adapted to a drier climate.

“Climate change studies have mostly focused on vulnerability of species,” Dr Byrne says.

“This study is about the resilience of species,” she says.

The climatic or rainfall gradients chosen occur across the Wheatbelt, the Great Western Woodlands and eastern Australian wheatbelt’s box woodlands.

Water use adaptations will be measured by the emission of carbon and nitrogen isotopes. Genetic variation will be measured by DNA extraction and analysis using the leaf material.

“South West WA has a high diversity of plant species, and there is just as much genetic diversity within them that may facilitate adaptation to changing climate,” Dr Byrne says. 

Partners in the study include Dr Suzanne Prober from CSIRO, Professor Will Stock from Edith Cowan University, and Professor Brad Potts, Associate Professor Rene Vaillancourt and Dr Dorothy Steane from the University of Tasmania.

The NCCARF was created in 2007 to enable research to occur that could assist in policy planning and decision making. It has commissioned over 100 research projects for a total of $40 million and has developed research plans for nine key sectors of Australian society.

Dr Byrne’s study was funded through the $3 million National Climate Change Adaptation Research Plan for Terrestrial Biodiversity.

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