Research Supervision:Prof Erik Veneklaas, Dr Jason Stevens, Prof Kingsley Dixon and Prof Grant Wardell-Johnson

Objectives: Train researchers to use quantitative ecophysiological traits to assess plant function and plant condition, in order to support management decisions about how to design resilient restoration communities and substrates, as well as monitor restoration success.

Outcomes: (1) Assessment of the plant and soil features that determine local species’ niches to design appropriate substrates and matching species for self-sustainable restoration systems; (2) Planning tools to enhance restoration success based on seasonal climatic conditions, optimised soil moisture, nurse species concept; (3) Protocols for monitoring and evaluating restoration trajectory in relation to self-sustainability and mine closure targets.

PDF3 (Post Doctoral Fellow)
Designing restoration systems based on plant-soil relations and feedbacks.
Restored ecosystems can attempt to mimic natural systems, but may deviate in key aspects. An understanding of plant species’ resource requirements and environmental tolerances can help decide which species may perform well in altered systems. This project will conduct a meta-analysis of species performance in multiple environments, and identify indicative ecophysiological traits linked to plant success. Management options that enhance plant performance will be formulated and experiments to test these initiated. Industry practitioners will be closely involved in providing data, interpreting results and planning field trials.

Defining plant physiological thresholds in restoration environments.
Recently germinated plants and seedlings are particularly vulnerable to environmental stress such as drought, adverse soil conditions and extreme temperatures which impact on the ability to achieve restoration milestones. This project will determine which plant traits confer tolerance and how vulnerability to stress depends on key substrate properties.

Optimising soil moisture availability in restoration environments.
Water is a limiting factor for growth and survival, and increasing water input (e.g. irrigation) is often not feasible or desirable. This project will determine options for enhancing water availability to recently established plants, including the importance of timing of restoration, soil depth, moisture infiltration and retention, soil-root interactions, using a range of geophysical methods and numerical modelling to define a restoration “plant-substrate water balance”.

Identifying adaptations of shallow soil endemic species.
Surface and subsoil rock is predominant in many mining landscapes, including the shallow soil banded ironstone formations (BIF) habitats. This project will assess the morphological and physiological adaptations and functioning of highly specialised species of these habitats and identify the plasticity of these traits. Natural and reconstructed habitats and ecophysiological methods linking soil moisture with plant performance will be applied.

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