Plant adaptation under a changing climate

plantMany plants, and trees in particular, have been standing where they are today for 100s and even 1000s of years. How have they been able to cope with the changing conditions over such a long time? Will this intrinsic ability to stay put and cope with changing conditions help them survive the rapid and human-induced climate change of today?

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Biodiversity hotspots in South Australia

ResearchBytes_SA-biodiversity-hotspots.jpgSix major biodiversity hotspots have been identified across South Australia, including Western Kangaroo Island, Southern Mount Lofty Ranges, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, Southern Flinders Ranges, Southern Eyre Peninsula and the Lower South East. However  each of these areas is also currently under threat from a combination of habitat fragmentation, invasive species, altered fire regimes and climate change.

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New research outputs from the Lowe lab group

Details of recent research outputs from my group at the University of Adelaide can be found on our website:

A couple of ‘ResearchByte’ articles, recently released, detail a review paper on plant adaptation to climate change, published in Conservation Genetics, and a research paper on identifying centres of plant biodiversity in South Australia, published in PLoS ONE, and can be found here.

Also, you may have seen recent media coverage of my group’s involvement in a legal trial in the US, where four men have pleaded guilty to theft and environmental crimes under the Lacey act. My group were involved in providing the genetic fingerprinting evidence that demonstrated that a batch of big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), sold to guitar companies, had been illegally logged from a protected stand. Check out more details here.

As well as the website, you can follow my group’s scientific undertakings through our Facebook page

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So what is NCRIS and why does it matter?

SKAOver the past few weeks there has been much political ado about the withholding of funding for Australia’s science infrastructure program. But now the funding is secure does anyone really understand what this research infrastructure is and why it is so important to us?

Artists impression of the Square Kilometre Array, part of Australia’s national research infrastructure

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Intergenerational report missing key future threat – climate change

UnknownThe following is an open letter initiated by Dr Andrew Glikson, signed by Australian environmental and climate scientists and as published in The Conversation.

We the undersigned are concerned that the Australian Government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report underestimates the serious threat of global warming to future generations.

Australia’s waterside cities are under threat from rising sea levels unless more is done to stop CO2 emissions (Michael Dawes)

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Move to recognise human epoch – ‘The Anthropocene’

the-anthropocene-eraThe Anthropocene, the geological epoch when humans have had an overriding influence on the earth and its atmosphere, is a step closer to being formally recognised as a geological period – and apparently it all started in 1610!

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Grubs up


Shouldn’t we be taking the idea of eating insects – or entophagy –   a bit more seriously?




A delicious and nutrious meal all wrapped up in a crunchy coating! (zmescience)

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Will the climate debate end up being fought in the courts?


Could politicians and scientists in the future be charged with “climate negligence”?

Implications of climate change on sea level rise effectively communicated (Julie G/Flickr, CC BY-ND)

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Shhh… Don’t wake the Kraken

1335759279_kraken by Ramses MelendezWhat turns an inconspicuous plant into an economically and ecologically damaging alien invader? Or to paraphrase this blog title – why does the Kraken awake? The answer is not simple. Several hypotheses exist, including lack of natural predators in the introduced range (the enemy release or habituation hypotheses).

However alien invaders often take time to become problematic. This lag phase, when plants may be called sleeper weeds, indicates that invaders may be adapting to their new environments. But recent research finds that multiple introductions of invaders during this phase can create a new breed of super weed.

The Kraken Wakes – a huge legendary sea monster,
remade as an alien invader by John Wyndham

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Engaging hearts and minds to reverse the biodiversity crisis

mass-extinction_1077_600x450Lets us be in no doubt – we are in the midst of the greatest biodiversity crisis the world has ever seen. The rate of extinction today is greater than at any other time in the history of life on earth.  The last 2 thousand years has also been recognized as a new geological period – the Anthropocene (see earlier post here) – the period when humans are having an overarching influence on the trajectory of the environment and biodiversity.

The reasons for this decline aren’t rocket science and are largely due to habitat fragmentation, invasive species and climate change. If species are to stop going extinct they will need large enough areas to maintain healthy populations.

But why aren’t we doing more to protect species from extinction?

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