Tropical rainforests are more metabolically than any other major forested biome, and variation in how they function from year to year influences the carbon cycle more than any other terrestrial ecosystem.
This project will enable the student to investigate how climate affects primary ecophysiological processes determining this interaction between tropical rainforests and the atmosphere. The work will connect with a current ARC project team focused on study at two tropical rainforest sites in Northern Queensland, including one site where full canopy access is available via a canopy crane (Daintree Research Observatory). The questions to consider will address: (i) the emission of carbon dioxide from soil and woody tissue, and how this varies with climate; and (ii) the transport of water from soil to leaf, and how easily this is disrupted during climatic stress, affecting photosynthesis. Students will learn how to measure gas exchange and water transport in plants and soil, how this varies with climate, and to connect this information with the context of the workings of the whole ecosystem. The project will include lab- and field- based preparation in Canberra, fieldwork in Queensland and data analysis plus writing back in Canberra, and with colleagues in Cairns.