Above and below-ground specialization in Australian orchids

This project is exploring the consequences of pollinator and fungal interactions for orchid speciation and vulnerability.

Orchids are frequently involved in obligate interactions with other organisms, with important consequences for speciation and extinction risk. In this project we are investigating the evolutionary, ecological and conservation implications of pollinator and mycorrhizal specialisation in Australian terrestrial orchids. We will first apply an integrated ecological and molecular analysis to reliably identify pollinator and fungal associates. Subsequently we will document the patterns and degree of specialisation. The project will reveal new insights into the mechanisms of plant speciation, identify orchid species with high extinction risk, and guide future in situ and ex situ conservation strategies.

The project is funded by an ARC Linkage grant (2011-2013).


This project represents a partnership between The Australian National University in Canberra, and the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA) in Perth. The multidisciplinary team combines expertise spanning the fields of ecology, population genetics, evolutionary biology, conservation biology and natural product chemistry.