Project Title: Relationships between leaf flammability and plant traits among species of dry sclerophyll forest: implications for management of fire-prone vegetation.
Primary Supervisor: Brad Murray Co-Supervisor: Paul Gribben
Bushfires are predicted to increase in frequency and severity over the next 50 years as a result of climate change. This has substantial ramifications for biodiversity, ecosystem function and human well-being. Most ecological research on the role of fires in natural ecosystems has focused on how vegetation and the constituent plant species respond to being burned. Less is known about how plant species of fire-prone vegetation differ in terms of the flammability of their leaves and the plant traits that underpin variation in leaf flammability. Furthermore, we know next to nothing about how the native flora of the region differ in such properties from introduced (exotic) plant species, which is somewhat alarming given the large number of exotic plant species that have been introduced to south-eastern Australia since permanent European settlement and that continue to spread prolifically across the landscape. Overall, this paucity of information and understanding has important ramifications for the effective management of vegetation in fire-prone regions and for the protection of human life and property from bushfires.
(1) To measure leaf flammability of over 100 native and exotic plant species of dry sclerophyll forest.
(2) To relate variation in leaf flammability to variation in leaf traits (e.g. moisture content, leaf area) among all species.
(3) To determine differences between native and exotic species in (i) leaf flammability, (ii) leaf properties and (iii) relationships between leaf flammability and leaf traits.