My research centres around the question how plants and entire ecosystems cope with changes in environmental conditions and with climate extremes like drought or heat stress. In my group we investigate plant performance under environmental stress, and this allows us to predict which plant species will be best suited to survive and thrive in a future climate in forests, revegetation projects or urban areas. Our research focuses on three areas:
Ecophysiology and plant adaptation
The response of plants to environmental conditions will determine their chance of survival. In this research area we study the mechanisms that plants employ to adjust and adapt to environmental stresses, especially drought and heat stress. We study plants along environmental gradients and under stressful conditions to determine how they survive and why they fail. We study plant responses on a whole plant level and relate expression of plant functional traits to mechanisms and processes. We study to what degree plants can actively respond to a change in environmental conditions and to what degree their response is genetically determined. Our research identifies the variety of mechanisms that enable plants to grow and thrive in their environment
Selection of plant species that can thrive and survive in future climates is a challenge. In this research area we develop and test novel approaches for plant selection in future forests, revegetation, and urban areas. We determine plant performance based on ecophysiological parameters and traits and test plant performance in challenging conditions. We work in native forests, areas of revegetation and reforeststation, in urban forests and novel ecosystems such as green roofs or woody meadows. Our research identifies plant species, provenances or cultivars that are best adapted to a future climate.
We investigate how entire ecosystems respond to changes in environmental conditions and how the cycling of carbon, nitrogen and water is influenced by climate. We measure how much carbon is absorbed by ecosystems and quantify, how climate variation influences ecosystem growth and the uptake or release of greenhouse gases. Key study areas are the Wombat Forest and the Whroo Nature Conservation Reserve in Victoria, where we operate eddy covariance flux towers and automated greenhouse gas measurement systems. Our research leads to a better understanding of the impact that climate and climate change has on key ecosystem processes.