Role of functional traits in plant stress tolerance
Functional traits are characteristics of plants that are important for the responses of plants to environmental changes. We study many water relation traits and their role in how plants adjust and adapt to environmental stresses, like drought stress. We investigate which traits are important to make plants more drought tolerant and assess the role of the traits in the plant stress tolerance strategies. We also investigate what controls the plant trait expression: if trait expression is under strong genetic control then plants may be more vulnerable in a rapidly changing climate. If trait expression is plastic and adjusted if the environmental conditions change then plants may be more resilient. We use this information to inform plant selection for future climates.
Carbon and greenhouse gas balance of forest ecosystems
Forests are one of the most important biological carbon sinks on the planet, yet we still do not fully understand the processes and dynamics of forest growth. In this theme we investigate the processes that influence tree growth and forest ecosystem carbon dynamics. We measure when trees grow what kind of organs and how environmental variables are influencing these processes. We also measure the key carbon and greenhouse gas fluxes in forest ecosystems to investigate when forests are sinks or sources for greenhouse gases. Much of this research is focussed on our long-term research site in the Wombat Forest, part of TERN OzFlux and TERN SuperSites of the national Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network.