Author: Rob Salguero-Gómez
I spent the last month in the Simpson Desert (center of Australia) in collaboration with A/Prof Glenda Wardle from the Desert Ecology Research Group at the University of Sydney. During that time, two new NutNet sites were established in spinifex-dominated regions. One of them, recently burned, likely contains the lowest biomass productivity of the whole NutNet network. Together, both sites will be critical in increasing the statistical strength of global predictions on the role of nutrient addition and herbivory on grass species composition and diversity (see Adler et al. 2011 Science).
I was looking for ideal woody species organisms for my research on the evolution (and escape) of senescence. Some of the highly modular growth forms (e.g. mallee habit) that coexist in the Simpson Desert, such as some acacias and eucalypts, are potential candidates to explore questions regarding dietary restriction, role of fire and consequent re-sprouting, and the role of modularity on survival, reproduction and growth of the whole genet and its associated ramets. Some of the ideas that I am currently pursuing are discussed in the editorial of the Journal of Ecology special feature “New Perspectives on Whole-Plant Senescence” that I led in collaboration with Rich Shefferson (UGA) and Mike Hutchings (Emeritus Professor, Univ Sussex).