Primary Supervisor: Dr Brad Murray, Co-Supervisor: Dr Andrea Leigh
Project Background: African olive (Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata) was introduced into Australia for horticultural purposes in the mid 19th century. Since then it has become an aggressive environmental weed. In recent decades it has invaded the Cumberland Plain region of Western Sydney. Olive invasion in the region has led to a decline in native plant diversity through the formation of a dense and permanent mid-canopy in a wide range of vegetation types. African olive is a declared noxious weed and its invasion has recently been recognised as a key threatening process by the NSW Scientific Committee.
Project Aims: The aims of this project are to:
(i) identify invertebrate assemblages associated with African olive in the Cumberland Plain region of Western Sydney;
(ii) compare invertebrate assemblages inhabiting different plant structures of African olive (leaves, stems, flowers, fruits, leaf litter, roots and soil under the plant canopy);
(iii) identify invertebrate herbivores of African olive and determine their impacts; (iv) identify invertebrate pollinators of African olive;
(v) explore the effects of time-since-invasion and plant density by African olive populations on invertebrate assemblages; and
(vi) determine whether invertebrate assemblages of African olive are a specific and reduced subset of the surrounding pool of invertebrates.
This study will not only provide baseline information that may be used in the future to assist in any plans for invertebrate biocontrol of African olive, it will also test important hypotheses in the research field of invasion ecology.