Fire has had a profound influence on plant trait evolution, resulting in adaptations that enable plants to survive or even thrive under a regime of recurring fire. Climate change, however, is driving rapid changes in fire regimes such that fires now occur with higher frequency, extent and intensity than they did over evolutionary history. How, or if, plants will adapt to these changes remains unknown. Invasive plant species present an additional complication because they can also change fire regimes by increasing flammable biomass. But we still don’t know whether phenotypic and genetic changes underlie the ability for invasive species to adapt to new fire regimes. In this project, we will investigate the molecular basis for fire-driven trait changes (particularly reproductive and flammability traits) in native and introduced plants in Australian landscapes.

The results will inform management by revealing how different fire regimes influence the biology of plant species. For example, if we know that fire increases reproductive capacity in some invasive plants, we could plan prescribed burning projects so as not to facilitate their spread.

The project will be a collaboration with Dr Juli Pausas of the Spanish National Research Council, Valencia and other local experts and management agencies.

Enquiries: annabel.smith@uq.edu.au

Project members

Dr Annabel Smith

Lecturer in Wildlife Management
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences