The Ralph Slatyer medal award ceremony

Ralph Slatyer’s seminal series of papers on the temperature responses of growth and photosynthesis in snowgum, published in the 1970’s, laid the foundation for our scientific understanding of physiological acclimation and adaptation to growth temperature in trees. Forty years on, this work is more important than ever, as we attempt to understand and predict the consequences of rising global temperatures for Australian forests.

In this talk Belinda will survey the current state of our predictive capacity. Belinda will review the outcomes of recent experiments and meta-analyses investigating the impact of temperature on tree photosynthesis and growth, including acclimation and adaptation capacity. Belinda will describe how this information is being incorporated into process-based models of forest growth and vegetation dynamics and highlight the key areas of uncertainty needing further investigation, and finish with some thoughts on where the future of our forests is headed.

Belinda Medlyn is Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Modelling at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University. Her research work focuses on translating information from plant and ecosystem scale experiments to develop models predicting vegetation function, particularly vegetation responses to elevated carbon dioxide, rising temperature and drought. She leads model synthesis activities at the Eucalyptus FACE experiment in Western Sydney, and has been instrumental in evaluating ecosystem models against Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiments internationally. Her research on stomatal conductance has drawn together the main strands of evidence about stomatal behaviour to develop a unified theory that serves as a major framework for research in this area, and her work on drought mortality led her to establish the Dead Tree Detective citizen science initiative. She was a Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher in 2018-21, and in 2019 won the Australian Research Council Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellowship.