Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Ph.D.

School

School of Natural Science

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Ray Froend

Second Advisor

Professor Will Stock

Abstract

For phreatophytic plants to persist in a given habitat they need to maintain a functional connection to the water table, and the capacity for roots to respond to changes in the water table is a key aspect of this. If root growth is limited by season, plants may not be able to grow roots to adjust to changes in the water table at a particular time of the year. The redistribution of roots, particularly the capacity for roots to follow the water table down in summer and autumn months, is vital for phreatophytic plants to maintain a functional connection with the water table. Root activity by phreatophytic Banksia in south-west Western Australia was assessed using root in-growth bags, with above-ground plant phenological processes observed simultaneously. The root in-growth bag technique that was used showed that Banksia roots are able to grow, provided soil conditions are conducive and there are no endogenous limitations to root growth at different times of the year, such as a dormancy period. The ability to grow at any time in response to soil conditions might be an essential prerequisite for phreatophytes if they are to survive fluctuating water table conditions in seasonally water-limited environments.

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