Growth races in The Mallee

The second paper from my PhD has been accepted for publication:

Thomas, FM and Vesk, PA (2017) Growth races in The Mallee: height growth in woody plants examined with a trait-based model.  Austral Ecology, early view.

In this paper Peter Vesk and I explore growth trajectories of woody plants in the Victorian Mallee, a semi-arid region of south-eastern Australia.

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An early time-since-fire site in Murray Sunset National Park

We examine the influence of plant functional traits on growth trajectories. We test trait-growth relationships by examining the influence of specific leaf area, woody density, seed size and leaf nitrogen content on three aspects of plant growth; maximum relative growth rate, age at maximum growth and asymptotic height.

Woody plant species in the semi-arid mallee exhibit fast growth trajectories. Small seeded species were likely to be the fastest to reach maximum height, while large-seeded species with high leaf nitrogen were likely the slowest. Tall species had low stem densities and tended to have low specific leaf area.

MalleeFlws

Some colour from Murray Sunset. Westringia rigida (Lamiaceae); Beyeria opaca (Euphorbiaceae); Acacia brachybotrya (Mimosaceae); Phebalium squamulosum (Rutaceae); Eremophila glabra (Scrophulariaceae) and Halgania cyanea (Boraginaceae).

We modeled plant growth using a hierarchical multi-species model that formally incorporates plant functional traits as species-level predictors of growth, which provides a method for predicting species height growth strategies as a function of their traits.

We further extended this approach by using the modeled relationships from our trait-growth model to predict: growth trajectories of species with limited data; real species with only trait data and; hypothetical species based only on trait coordination. We hope this highlights the potential to use trait information for ecological inference and to generate predictions that could be used for management.

Please email if you would like more information.

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Some fine mallee forms.

 

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