Concerning the impact of climate change on ecosystems I’m very interested in two extremes: water and fire. The absence of water can cause enormous stress for plants, for example during droughts. Fire is an incisive event for ecosystems. But, plants have evolved several mechanisms to cope with regular fires. Interestingly in drylands many plants need a fire cue for germination.
Currently, I’m doing my master thesis on shrublands in South-West Australia. Dry weather conditions and regular fires dominate this highly diverse plant community. Due to climate change weather conditions are projected to become drier and hotter and fire intervals may become shorter: The drier and hotter conditions are expected to reduce propagule availability and seedling recruitment. In addition, shorter fire intervals may increase the risk that plants are killed before they can produce seeds ("immaturity risk"). Consequently, self-replacement will be reduced (Enright et al 2015). In my master thesis, I will study how these risks affect plants with different functional traits. The relevant traits include the ability to resprout after a fire vs. being killed by fires or different seed sizes.
Therefore, I will investigate in an agent-based model how climate change will affect plants with different trait combinations of Mediterranean-type Ecosystems of South-West Australia.