Is invasion by buffel grass disrupting interactions between plants and animals in semi-arid Australia?

Is invasion by buffel grass disrupting interactions between plants and animals in semi-arid Australia?

Closing date: 
31 October 2015
Study Type: 
PhD

Introduced pastoral grasses have become major global drivers of ecosystem change, causing native plant assemblages to be transformed through changes in fire regimes or direct competition.  Far less is known about how invasive grasses affect more complex interactions within ecological communities, for example, whether shifts in abundance or behaviour of seed dispersers, pollinators and granivores in invaded areas can further impact the effective reproduction and recruitment of the plant species they rely on.

This project will explore how Cenchrus ciliaris, an introduced pasture species now ubiquitous through large areas of semi-arid Australia, affects the abundance of key native plant species that provide important resources for desert fauna, visitation and use of available resources by fauna, and whether any disruptions to plant-animal interactions lead to further impacts on seed supply and dispersal of the plants. There is scope to explore seed and fruit dispersal, predation or pollination by mutualist and predatory vertebrates (e.g. frugivorous, nectivorous and granivorous birds and mammals) and invertebrates (e.g. ants).

The student will be based at the Alice Springs campus of Charles Darwin University (CDU) in the School of Environment. This research will feed into a larger collaborative project between CDU and University of Wollongong (UoW) and funding for the research has already been secured. The project is available for commencement in 2016. The student is expected to obtain an Australian or University Postgraduate Award with Charles Darwin University.  Generous top-ups resulting in scholarships of up to $40,000 p.a. are being offered on a competitive basis through CDU for students who apply by 31st October.

The project will be supervised by Dr Christine Schlesinger (CDU Alice Springs), Prof Kris French (UoW) and Dr Ben Gooden (UoW).

cschlesinger's picture
Dr Christine Schlesinger
Senior Research Fellow