- Evolutionary ecology research
- Australian rain forest community assembly
- Australian rain forest through time
- Ecology of Cumberland Plain Woodland
- Bicentenary Plant Diversity Program
- Biodiversity Adaptation Transect
- Botany of Botany Bay
- Conservation genetics
- DNA studies of Elaeocarpaceae
- Ecology of Isopogon prostratus
- Floristic Lists of NSW
- Habitat fragmentation
- Lomatia (Proteaceae)
- Molecular phylogeny of the Australian Lauraceae
- Promiscuous Lomatia
- Promiscuous Proteaceae
- Native plants of Sydney Harbour NP
- Newnes Plateau Shrub Swamps
- Next Generation Sequencing
- Nickel hyperaccumulation in Stackhousia
- NSW Vegetation Classification & Assessment Project
- Plants of the Newnes Plateau
- Plants, vegetation, landscape, country
- Phylogenetic relationships of Ceratopetalum
- Podocarpus elatus
- Rainforest conifer - Podocarpus elatus
- Speciation in Proteaceae
- Testing speciation models
- Horticultural research
- Plant diversity research
- Plant pathology research
- Herbarium & resources
- Scientific publications
Australian rain forest community assembly - functional and phylogenetic perspectives
Robert Kooyman - Honorary Research Associate
The evolutionary history of plant species and the environments they live in shape their form, function, and abundance. As climate changed species adapted, shifted in abundance, went extinct, or survived in the conditions they evolved in.
At continental scales and through time, the transition of Australia from a rain forest dominated continent to the driest habitable continent on earth remains of fundamental scientific interest. Our research is focused on quantifying plant trait variation across environmental gradients and in relation to community phylogenetic structure. Together these provide insights into the climatic, geological and topographic factors that shape rain forest communities.
Community ecology is the investigation of the nature of interactions among organisms. It includes both the origins of those interactions, and their ecological and evolutionary consequences. To date we have considered correlations across current-day species in assemblages in relation to local and regional rain forest species pool sizes, and trait values along gradients including elevation and latitude. Our recent work quantified trait values for seed size, leaf area, wood density and maximum height at maturity for 1137 species and 596 assemblages. Leaf size and seed size were larger in the tropics (low latitudes), and community phylogenetic structure was most strongly correlated with seed traits in the sub-tropics, reflecting dispersal and re-colonization processes.
Stable moist forest areas retained many species from ancestral rain forest lineages across a range of temporally conserved habitats; species within assemblages were less related; and rain forest assemblages had higher functional diversity but lower niche breadth. This suggests that on average assemblages of species in stable areas had greater trait variation and more constrained distributions. In relation to conservation biology, results for historically more disturbed areas show that rain forest contraction and re-expansion can result in recolonized areas that are dominated by species that are more related (phylogenetically) than by chance, have smaller, widely dispersed seeds, and greater niche breadth (broader distributions).
We believe being able to predict which sort of plant species will do what is critical for managing Australia’s native vegetation into the future.