Title: Seed ecology of a globally invasive species: Eragrostis curvula (African Lovegrass).
Summary: Eragrostis curvula, commonly known as African Lovegrass is a C4 perennial grass, native to South Africa. Since its introduction into Australia in the early 1900s, this tussock forming grass has shown similar weedy characteristics to some of Australia’s most invasive species including Nassella neesiana (Chilean Needle Grass), Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), Nassella trichotoma (Serrated tussock), Ulex europaeus (Gorse), Rubus fruticosus (Blackberry) (Johnston et al. 1984; Silcock 2005; Johnston 2009). Currently, E. curvula can be found in every state and territory across Australia where it has shown highly competitive and aggressive behaviour and places a serious threat to native flora, fauna and pastoral land (Muyt 2001; Csurhes and Edwards 1998). Although considered a useful pasture species in some regions of the world, E. curvula in Australia has not met these same expectations but is rather considered a highly invasive weed and therefore efficient management is required for its control (Voight et al. 1970; Di Renzo et al. 2000; Guevara et al. 2005). Within Australia, it has been observed that several spatially varied populations of the species have shown differences in their invasiveness and ability to tolerate a range of environmental conditions (Leigh and Davidson 1968). It is therefore important to determine how seeds collected from different climatic regions respond to selected biotic and abiotic factors. By investigating these factors (temperature, photoperiod, pH, salinity, drought stress, heat stress, burial depth and seed longevity) this research will address the long-term management of this weed by understanding what environmental factors influence seed germination, seed longevity and the seed emergence at different depths. Also, because little research has been conducted on multiple populations of this species, it is important to identify the best treatment for effective widespread control (Sharp 2011). This project is timely in that it will provide a strong foundation for developing management strategies to control this aggressive weed here in Australia and around the world where it causes significant impact. This project is also significant and innovative in that it will provide evidential information of four populations within Australia which will enable the synthesis of a new, holistic approach to manage the species at a landscape-scale. This project also directly addresses a number of aspects mentioned in Australia’s National Research Priorities, specifically falling within the theme of ‘managing and protecting Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity both for its own value and to develop long-term use of ecosystem goods and services.'
Title: Invertebrate assemblages and seed harvesting ant dispersal of the native Australian shrub Acacia longifolia subsp longifolia south-eastern Australia.
Summary: Acacia longifolia subsp. longifolia is an invasive plant in the Grampians National Park. Significantly impacting the native flora present in the park. Little is known of its impact on the diverse and largely endemic invertebrates of the region and currently there is speculation as to how it rapidly colonises new areas. This project will firstly focus on terrestrial invertebrates in both invaded and pristine areas and comparing invertebrate faunal composition, specifically, Collembola, Blattodea, Isopoda, Hymenoptera (Formicidae) and Dermaptera. Secondly, the roll of myrmecochory and the seed dispersal rate associated. This will lead to evaluating the diversity and variation of invertebrates and applying the found results to conservation and management opportunities with A. longifolia.