Ecology of Orchids and their Fungi
Large-scale fungal baiting studies, utilising methods developed by the group, are being used to identify receptor sites for critically endangered orchids and to investigate the use of orchids as indicators of ecosystem health in urban bushland remnants.
As a result of fungal baiting studies research has found:
- Establishment and survival criteria for orchid seedlings of both rare and common species.
- Distributional status of orchid-specific fungi in suitable habitats for recovery of orchid species.
- Persistence values for fungi in habitats of various quality and disturbance levels.
- Ecological and molecular specificity of orchids and mycorrhiza.
Orchid Conservation and Restoration
The Orchid Conservation Team is involved in various recovery actions and regional recovery groups dealing with critically endangered orchids.
Research and recovery actions include:
- Germination and establishment to soil of Caladenia huegelii and a number of common orchid species to research tuberisation induction of seedlings.
- Conservation of Caladenia huegelii through the Roe Hwy stage 7 project. For the first time data on the translocation of native orchids is being obtained, which will assist in future decision-making and recovery actions.
- Under the Millennium Seed Bank Project: banking of the seed and mycorrhizal agents of all Western Australian orchids. The commencement of Phase Two of the project will have a research emphasis on orchid seed storage physiology and release of deep intractable dormancy in the genera Leporella, Pyrochics and Epiblema.
- Post-mining recovery of terrestrial orchids.
- Recovery and reinstatement of terrestrial orchids in restoration programs, including urban bushland remnants.
Orchid Pollination and Evolution
Understanding the pollination biology of terrestrial orchids particularly in relation to evolutionary development. Western Australia is home to seven genera of sexually deceptive orchids, the highest abundance of sexually deceptive genera in the Orchidaceae.
Research areas include:
- Determining pollination success rates for critically endangered species using the focus species Caladenia huegelii.
- Investigating the infra-specific and inter-specific chemical composition and specificity of pheromone-like chemicals produced by the orchids to attract pollinators. (In collaboration with Prof Rod Peakall, Australian National University).
- Understanding the relationships between pollinator abundance and behaviour and pollination success rates in orchid species.
- Links between orchid pollinator specificity and mycorrhizal specificity in the evolution of species in the genus Drakaea and Caladenia.
- Understanding the pollination constraints on rarity and conservation.
The Underground Orchids
As an example of exceptional evolution and adaptation, it is an ongoing research project.
Answers are needed from:
- Continuing glasshouse research and survival experiments for fungi and orchid.
- Seed baiting effects in the field.
- Experiments, possibly growing the orchid with the same or similar fungi near other hosts.
Friends of Kings Park Orchid Carers
The Friends of Kings Park Orchid Carers Group have germinated a range of orchid species common to Kings Park bushland and key species from other parts of WA. Tissue cultured plants are being targeted for sale at the regular Friends of Kings Park Native Plant Sale.
Current research projects
- Translocation and conservation of Caladenia huegelii. Nigel Swarts (Postdoctoral staff) Program funding for 2003 to 2010
- Orchids as indicators of ecosystem health, Belinda Newman (PhD student 2003-2010)
- Seed Banking for Australian Terrestrial and Epiphytic Orchids. Funding Australian Orchid Foundation. 2003-2010
- Millennium Seed Bank Project. Orchid species seed banking and seed physiology and dormancy research. 2005-2010.
- Granite rock endemism in the genus Paracaleana (PhD student Alea Faber). 2006-2011
- Co-evolution in mycorrhizal and pollinator specificity in the model genus Drakaea (PhD student Ryan Phillips). 2006-2010
- Evolution of the food-deception to sexual deception continuum in Caladenia. PhD program.
- Conservation of Drakea with an emphasis on Drakea elastica. (2008-2013)
Personnel, PHD Students
- Belinda Newman (2003 - 2010) Orchids as bio-indicators of urban ecosystem sustainability. (Supervisors: Dr Philip Ladd, Dr Andrew Batty, Dr Mark Brundrett, Prof Kingsley Dixon).
- Ryan Phillips (2006 - 2010) The Role of Pollinators and Mycorrhiza in Controlling Distribution and Speciation in Drakaea (Hammer Orchids). (Supervisors: Supervisors: Prof Kingsley Dixon, Prof Stephen Hopper.)
- Alea Faber (2006-present). Endemism and orchids case studies in rare and common granite rock endemic species from the Darling Scarp. (Supervisors: Prof S Hopper, Dr P Poot, Prof Kingsley Dixon)