The ecological concepts of progressive plant succession to climax have been well developed, and form an integral basis for determining changes in primary to secondary plant succession through to vegetation maxima, climax. The present-day distribution of plant groups of the Cooloola dune system are a result of processes that have operated for thousands of years. These processes have been inclusive of natural disturbances within the progressive phase, possibly causing directional change, nonetheless mostly without retrogression. However, does the concept of plant succession and retrogression on dune systems work? Assumptions of plant progression to climax have mostly been developed of relatively fertile soil sequences; and not, within a subtropical dune sequence that has been exposed to prolonged soil weathering. An integral component of this study is to understand the phases of plant progression on dune systems by investigating: fresh parent material source and nutrient status, nutrient cycling, water table accessibility for plant roots, fire history, if sea-level rise has influenced plant groups at the shoreline, and the relationship between soil fertility and plant biomass on the younger to oldest dunes.

Advisors:  Prof Jamie Shulmeister, Dr Talitha Santini

Project members

Helen Bowyer

Helen BOWYER

PhD candidate