Environment Institute

A group of scientists and industry leaders have called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to take action on climate change.

In an open letter entitled There Is No Planet B, 154 Australian scientists urged the Government to address the root causes of climate change.

“We are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we have got …. We know that the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic …. We as a human species have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us.”

“We call on the Australian government to tackle the root causes of an unfolding climate tragedy and do what is required to protect future generations and nature, including meaningful reductions of Australia’s peak carbon emissions and coal exports, while there is still time.”

The letter has been signed by prominent climate scientists such as Will Steffen, Leslie Hughes, Tim Flannery, Charlie Veron and David Bowman, and includes signatures by members of the Environment Institute including Professor Robert S. Hill, Professor Andrew Lowe, Associate Professor Phillip Cassey, Dr Thomas Prowse, Dr Diego Garcia-Bellido and Professor Steven Cooper.


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This is a guest post by Matthew Christmas. Matthew is a PhD researcher under the supervision of Professor Andy Lowe.

Hopbush- the Aussie battler

hopbushWidely distributed plants, such as the Australian native ‘hopbush’ (Dodonaea viscosa, right), have to face a spectrum of environmental conditions across their range. In the short term they can deal with environmental changes through non-permanent, ‘plastic’ shifts in their structure and physiology.

Over a longer, multi-generational time scale, they can adapt via changes to their genetic makeup, i.e. via natural selection. These genetic changes are selected for by the environment the plants find themselves in.

Under contemporary climate change, plants are experiencing ever-changing conditions. Genetic adaptation may prove key to their persistence in an uncertain future. For the hopbush, recent evidence suggests that the species is well equipped to adapt to a changing climate.

Surviving the elements

Hopbush is an Australian native shrub with a wide distribution throughout the continent, as well as overseas. Its ability to adapt to a diversity of habitat types and climates has made it a species of choice for studies of local adaptation and responses to climate.

In particular, its distribution along the Mount Lofty and Flinders Ranges in South Australia, where it is cool and wet in the south and hot and dry in the north, has been the focus of a number of recent research articles. Guerin, Wen, and Lowe (2012) demonstrated a shift to narrower leaves over space and time. Narrow leaves are thought to be an adaptation to warmer, drier climate.

Similarly, Hill et al. (2015) found increasing stomatal density (the number of stomatal pores for gas exchange found on the underside of leaves) in line with an increase in mean summer maximum temperature.

Genome reveals more adaptability

A new study, recently accepted for publication in the journal Molecular Ecology, has used novel genomic techniques to investigate selection and adaptation at the level of the genome. The study focussed on populations of hopbush distributed along a 700 km aridity gradient along the Mount Lofty and Flinders Ranges.

Leaf samples were collected from multiple individuals at 17 collection sites. Genetic variation across 970 targeted genes both within and among populations was measured. The researchers found that temperature and water availability had selected for different genetic variants along the gradient.

Genes shown to be under selection had a diversity of functions, including water use efficiency and adaptation to environmental stressors, such as temperature and salt. Findings in the current study provide potential links between the phenotypic variation observed in previous studies and the underlying genomic variation.

A number of the genes that showed significant associations with environment had functions relating to leaf shape and the development and function of stomata. These findings add to the growing body of research beginning to unveil the adaptive processes that have enabled this highly adaptable species to thrive in such a diversity of habitats and climates.

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Radio Adelaide chats to PhD student Jack Tatler, although “dingo whisperer” would also be an apt title.

Tatler is studying the role of dingos in the ecosystem. He studies both wild and captive dingos, equipping them with specialised GPS collars to track their every movement.

Listen to the podcast to learn more about his research or read his latest interview in the Advertiser


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A 400 hectare piece of land in South Australia’s outback, 400 kilometres north-east of Adelaide, is providing important data to help researchers and land and environmental managers understand arid zone ecology and the impacts of grazing by sheep and pests. The Koonamore Vegetation Reserve, located in the centre of Koonamore Station, is one of the world’s oldest […]

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As part of the Department of Ecology & Environmental Science Seminar Series Professor Bob Hill Executive Dean, Faculty of Sciences University of Adelaide, and Director, Environment Institute will present a seminar entitled: Fire, Air, Earth, Water – the elemental drivers of the Australian vegetation Abstract The living Australian vegetation is the end result of hundreds of millions of years of evolution, […]

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European carp have been a scourge on the River Murray. The destructive feeding habits of the carp have decimated the ecosystem, displaying aquatic plants and animals. In May 2016, it was announced that the Federal Government would spend $15million to eradicate carp, through the introduction of the herpes virus. The virulent herpes strain to be introduced […]

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If you’re thinking of doing a Masters or PhD in conservation, this scholarship is for you. The Nature Foundation SA is offering the Roy & Marjory Edwards Scholarship to support a postgraduate student (Masters or PhD) at a South Australian University. The scholarship will provide $12,000 per annum for up to three years. The proposed research project […]

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A new paper has described technology as the key to conservation. From satellites to drones, technology has continually demonstrated its usefulness amongst conservationists. A group of international ecologists, incuding our very own Associate Professor Lian Pin Koh  from the newly minted Centre for Applied Conservation Science, published the paper about the benefits of technology in conservation. The paper, entitled  “Integration of […]

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A big congratulations to the Environment Institute’s Professor Alan Cooper, who has been named the South Australian Scientist of the Year at the annual South Australian Government’s Science Excellence Awards. Prof Cooper has been recognised for his expertise in ancient DNA. He has been instrumental in transforming the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) into an internationally leading research […]

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Entries to the Environment Institute’s 2016 Photo Competition are now closed. We received an amazing selection of photos from staff, students and affiliates of the EI, with subjects covering all aspects of environmental science. With the entries all received, we need your help to pick a winner! One winner will be chosen by the people. You can […]

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