Synopsis 

Long thought to be extinct, Nitella partita is a macroscopic green alga (charophyte) that was rediscovered in freshwater temporary wetlands of the Paroo River. Plant communities in these temporary wetlands undergo considerable changes during erratic filling and drying cycles. During these cycles, aquatic plants, sedges, annual grasses, herbs and forbs become abundant during and after inundation, before declining again. During prolonged dry periods, ground cover may be virtually absent and many species remain hidden below the surface as propagules in seed banks or underground storage organs.

Nitella partita is difficult to map and quantify because of the ephemeral nature of its habitat. It’s listed as Endangered under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is providing funding through the “Saving our Species” program for a research project to be undertaken.

Aims

The project: “Ecology & Conservation of Nitella Partita : an Endangered Aquatic Plant of Arid Temporary Wetlands” will cover the following:

  • Improved understanding of the distribution and abundance of the species through surveys of seed banks
  • Identification of the additional areas where the species may be likely to occur by using the knowledge on the distribution and abundance
  • Investigation of the species’ ecology by conducting research into its reproductive biology, germination, habitat requirements and life history
  • Determine the potential response to disturbance regimes such as flooding and grazing

Student Benefits

In this project, you’ll gain the following skills:

  • Critical thinking and scientific writing
  • Field and glasshouse techniques for sampling plant seed banks
  • Field sampling skills while working in a remote and challenging environment
  • Experience that is relevant to careers in conservation planning and management, ecological research and environmental consulting

The project is supported by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, which will provide funds to cover costs of fieldwork.

Supervisors: Drr Mark Ooi and Drr John Porter.