Supervisor: Bob Godfree
The invasion of native ecosystems by introduced plant species has emerged as a major area of concern both in Australia and worldwide. Invasive plants have the capacity to alter species composition and ecosystem function, degrade ecosystem services, and threaten rare or endangered native species. Understanding the impacts of invasive plants on native plant communities and the factors limiting invasion is of great interest to ecologists since this information can be used to mitigate the effects of invasion or to control the release of species that are likely to become invasive.
Trifolium repens (white clover) is an introduced plant that has become established in a variety of vegetation types in the subalpine region of southeast Australia, including Kosciusko National Park. In some areas it has become an invasive weed, and may threaten native plant communities. However, white clover is also an important agricultural pasture plant and cultivars exhibiting resistance to a range of viruses have been developed for future commercial use. We have initiated a project investigating the ecological risks that these newly developed virus-resistant white clover cultivars pose to native grasslands and woodlands in the subalpine region of NSW and the ACT. One important component of this work is to determine the extent of white clover invasion of these ecosystems, and to quantify the biomass of white clover relative to that of other exotic and native community constituents.
The student involved in this project will have the opportunity to conduct a field trial investigating the abundance of white clover growing in native grassland and woodland plant communities in the subalpine region of the ACT. The student will learn how to: 1) design and implement ecological field experiments, 2) identify a range of native and exotic plant species found in grassland and woodland communities, and 3) determine the abundance of various species in both communities using a range of different sampling regimes. A substantial component of the project will involve sampling and measuring white clover and other plant species in the field, but a significant amount of time will also involve laboratory work, data analysis, and the presentation of results. There is also the possibility of extending the project to include genetic analysis of white clover populations.
Since this project is to be run in conjunction with a large-scale field trial aimed at determining the effects of ClYVV on naturally-occurring white clover populations in the ACT, the student will also have the opportunity to participate in a major risk-assessment project in the field of invasion ecology.