Cool Plants Research

Cool Plants

Sharon Robinson Research Area

Antarctic plants and global change

Sophistication in simplicity: chemical signatures in Antarctic moss cells reveal post water environments [PDF]

Since plant growth in Antarctica is very slow, we use a range of molecular and physiological techniques to predict how terrestrial biodiversity in Antarctica will change as a result of climate change.

Our work is providing important insights into the biology of these plants that survive and grow in conditions equivalent to a freezer. Our research provides evidence that the Antarctic endemic moss Grimmia antarctici is likely to be more susceptible to climate change than two co-occurring cosmopolitan species Ceratodon purpureus and Bryum pseudotriquetrum (Robinson et al 2005 PDF 681k, Wasley et al 2006a, b).

My group is investigating:

How changes in water and nutrient availability will affect plant growth in Antarctica (see Robinson et al 2000, 178k PDF, Robinson et al. 2005 681k PDF, Wasley et al (2006a & b)

The impact of the ozone hole and the resultant increase in UV-B radiation on these communities (sunscreen pigments, DNA damage and persistence of genetic mutation in Antarctic plants). (see Lovelock, C.E. and Robinson, S.A. (2002); Robinson et al. 2005)

How subantarctic Antarctic plants respond to changes in temperature.

Bioactive compounds that are responsible for the extreme desiccation and cold tolerance of Antarctic plants.

Using remote sensing to map Antarctic flora

Our research in Antarctica also involves a collaboration with colleagues at CSIRO Land and Water and at the University of Tasmania to assess the practicality of using remote sensing to map and monitor vegetation change in these sensitive communities. This work is focussed on the subantarctic Islands (Macquarie and Heard) (Lovelock, C.E. and Robinson, S.A. (2002)

Current students

Laurence Clarke - PhD
Mary Rosengren - DCA
Johanna Turnbull - MRes
Neelima Sathe - Mres
Ellen Ryan-Colton - Environmental Science Hons

Future opportunities for research

Antarctic plants and global change
  1. UV screening potential of Antarctic plants
  2. How does UV-B influence cell and plant development in Antarctic mosses?
  3. How do Antarctic plants survive desiccation? What compounds are involved?
  4. How is global change influencing terrestrial vegetation dynamics in Antarctica?

Related publications

Wasley, J., Robinson, S.A., Popp, M., Lovelock, C.E. (2006a) Climate change manipulations show Antarctic flora is more strongly affected by elevated nutrients than water. Global Change Biology 12 1800-1812.

Wasley, J., Robinson, S.A., Popp, M., Lovelock, C.E. (2006b) Some like it wet – biological characteristics underpinning tolerance of extreme water events in Antarctic bryophytes. Functional Plant Biology 33 443-455.

Robinson, S.A., Turnbull, J.D. Lovelock, C.E. (2005) Impact of changes in natural UV radiation on pigment composition, surface reflectance and photosynthetic function of the Antarctic moss, Grimmia antarctici. Global Change Biology 11 476-489.
Paper in PDF (681k)

Robinson, S.A., Wasley, J. and Tobin, A.K. (2003) Living on the edge-plants and global change in continental and maritime Antarctica. Global Change Biology 9 1681-1717
Paper in PDF (432k)

Robinson, S.A. (2002) Indicator 72-Windmill Islands terrestrial vegetation dynamics. Antarctic State of the Environment Indicator.

Lovelock, C.E. and Robinson, S.A. (2002) Surface reflectance properties of Antarctic moss and their relationship to plant species, pigment composition and photosynthetic function. Plant Cell and Environment 25: 1239-1250.
Paper in PDF (284k)

Robinson, S.A., Wasley, J., Popp, M. and Lovelock, C.E. (2000) Desiccation tolerance of three moss species from continental Antarctica. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 27 379-388.
Paper in PDF (178k)