More News from The Dead Tree Detective

My colleague Brendan Choat talks to the ABC about tree deaths in the ongoing drought in SE Australia – now the worst drought on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.


Dead Tree Detective

Announcing the Dead TreScreen Shot 2018-12-17 at 7.46.28 ame Detective – a citizen science effort to track tree death in Australia.

Around the world, there are increasing reports of tree death from drought and heatwaves. But what about Australia’s trees? Although they can seem remarkably resilient, they are also prone to large-scale dieback. Scientists are still trying to understand the causes and thresholds for this dieback, but we need more on-the-ground observations. After all – if a tree falls in the forest, and no-one is around is around to hear it, did it really die?

The Dead Tree Detective ( is hosted by the Atlas of Living Australia’s Biocollect platform. If you notice dead or dying trees in your area, simply upload a photograph with the date and location, then answer a few questions to help identify the possible causes. If you like, revisit the location in following months to document whether trees recover or not.


Journal Club Best Of 2018

#oneforjournalclub has voted! Our winner this year:

Sensitivity of atmospheric CO2 growth rate to observed changes in terrestrial water storage Humphrey, Zscheischler, Ciais, Gudmundsson, Sitch & Seneviratne

We found this global-scale analysis to be a powerful and convincing demonstration of the role of water availability in the global carbon cycle.

Our runner-up:

Iterative near-term ecological forecasting: needs, opportunities & challenges Dietze, Fox, Beck-Johnson, Betancourt, Hooten, Jarnevich, Keitt, Kenney, Laney,  Larsen,  Loescher, Lunch, Pijanowski, Randerson, Read, Tredennick, Vargas, Weathers, White

This review paper is already strongly influencing our thinking.

Honourable mentions also went to the following papers:

Global land change from 1982 to 2016  Song, Hansen, Stehman, Potapov, Tyukavina, Vermote, Townshend

Evapotranspiration and water yield of a pine‐broadleaf forest are not altered by long‐term atmospheric [CO2] enrichment under native or enhanced soil fertility  Ward, Oren, Kim, Kim, Tor-ngern, Ewers, McCarthy, Oishi, Pataki, Palmroth, Phillips, Schafer

Climate Change and Drought: the Soil Moisture Perspective  Berg, Sheffield

Unsaturation of vapour pressure inside leaves of two conifer species  Cernusak, Ubierna, Jenkins, Garrity, Rahn, Powers, Hanson, Sevanto, Wong, McDowell, Farquhar

Well done to all authors – we are a tough mob to please!

Elisa wins 3MT Competition

We are very proud of PhD student Elisa Stefaniak, whose presentation “Save Or Spend? Plants Do It Too!” won the Western Sydney University 3 Minute Thesis competition. Elisa won $3000 and a trip to Brisbane to participate in the Asia-Pacific final of 3MT. Well done Elisa! And good luck in Brisbane!


PhD Scholarship Available

We have a PhD scholarship available to join our ARC-Discovery project studying the responses of grassland and pasture vegetation to heat and drought! Great opportunity to work with an amazing team including me, Elise PendallSally PowerDavid Tissue, our international collaborators Alan Knapp & Melinda Smith, and a group of outstanding post-docs and students. Interested? Contact me for further details!


New Heatwave Research


heatwave wtcWe know that the heat is uncomfortable for humans and animals, but how does our native flora fare? Our group was very excited to be part of an HIE research team studying how eucalypts cope with heatwaves, using our unique whole-tree chambers.

The research is published in Global Change Biology. Read the media coverage on or the Guardian. (I’m told it was also in The Australian .. but that’s paywalled)


Journal Club “Best Of” 2017

#oneforjournalclub has voted! Here are our top papers for 2017.

Our winner, for an elegant and insightful experiment into plant carbon balance:

Justine Karst, Jacob Gaster, Erin Wiley, Simon M. Landhäusser; Stress differentially causes roots of tree seedlings to exude carbon, Tree Physiology, Volume 37, Issue 2, 1 February 2017, Pages 154–164,

Our runner-up, for a fascinating combination of plant physiology and biogeography:

Larter, M., Pfautsch, S., Domec, J.-C., Trueba, S., Nagalingum, N. and Delzon, S. (2017), Aridity drove the evolution of extreme embolism resistance and the radiation of conifer genus Callitris. New Phytol, 215: 97–112. doi:10.1111/nph.14545

Honourable mentions also to two outstanding modelling papers:

Xu, X., Medvigy, D., Joseph Wright, S., Kitajima, K., Wu, J., Albert, L. P., Martins, G. A., Saleska, S. R. and Pacala, S. W. (2017), Variations of leaf longevity in tropical moist forests predicted by a trait-driven carbon optimality model. Ecol Lett, 20: 1097–1106. doi:10.1111/ele.12804

Feng, X., Dawson, T. E., Ackerly, D. D., Santiago, L. S. and Thompson, S. E. (2017), Reconciling seasonal hydraulic risk and plant water use through probabilistic soil–plant dynamics. Glob Change Biol, 23: 3758–3769. doi:10.1111/gcb.13640


Journal Club Goes to AGU 2017

There’s a gang of #oneforjournalclub folk heading to New Orleans for AGU – hoping to catch up with many friends and colleagues! Here’s where we’ll be, please stop by:

Monday, 11 December 2017 09:45 – 10:00 Convention Center – 386-387 B11K-08 Mistletoe infection alters the transpiration flow path and suppresses water regulation of host trees during extreme events Anne Griebel

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 13:40 – 18:00 Poster Hall D-F B23D-2107 Plant inputs, microbial carbon use in soil and decomposition under warming: effects of warming are depth dependent Yolima Carrillo / Elise Pendall

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 08:00 – 12:20 Poster Hall D-F B31A-1970 Applying the concept of ecohydrological equilibrium to predict steady-state leaf area index for Australian ecosystems Jinyan Yang

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 16:45 – 17:00 Convention Center – 388-390 B34A-04 When growth and photosynthesis don’t match: implications for carbon balance models Belinda Medlyn

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 17:15 – 17:30 Convention Center – 388-390 B34A-06 Challenging terrestrial biosphere models with data from the long-term multifactor Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment experiment Martin De Kauwe

Friday, 15 December 2017 08:00 – 12:20 Poster Hall D-F  B51D-1824 Lessons from simultaneous measurements of soil respiration and net ecosystem exchange of CO2 in temperate forests Alexandre Renchon

Friday, 15 December 2017 14:55 – 15:07 Convention Center – 388-390 B53I-07 How does warming affect carbon allocation, respiration and residence time in trees? An isotope tracer approach in a eucalypt Elise Pendall

Friday, 15 December 2017 16:45 – 17:00 Convention Center – 298-299 H54D-04 Plant ecosystem responses to rising atmospheric CO2: applying a “two-timing” approach to assess alternative hypotheses for mechanisms of nutrient limitation Belinda Medlyn

New ARC Discovery Project

We are very pleased to have been successful in the 2018 ARC Discovery round. Our project “Brown is the new green: grassland responses to heat and drought”  aims to improve our ability to predict grassland productivity in hot & dry conditions with a better understanding of physiological drought tolerance and leaf browning. My co-CIs on this exciting new project are Prof Elise Pendall, A/Prof Sally Power, Prof David Tissue (all from HIE) and Profs Alan Knapp and Melinda Smith from Colorado State.