Patterns of water use by the riparian tree Melaleuca argentea in semi-arid northwest Australia

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[Truncated abstract] This thesis examines the water use physiology of the riparian tree Melaleuca argentea, and the ways in which this species may respond to anthropogenic disturbances to hydrologic processes. The research investigated patterns of water use by M. argentea in relation to key aspects of the riparian environment, including in response to flooding and drought as well as to groundwater drawdown.
Study sites focused on the remote Pilbara region of northwest Australia encompassing ~500,000 km2, ~1700 km north of Perth, the nearest major city). The Pilbara is currently undergoing rapid economic development and population growth due to expansion in the mining sector. There are concerns that intensification of mining efforts, which often involves dewatering for extraction of ore below the water table, and abstraction of water to supply regional populations and industry could produce undesirable environmental outcomes of a long-term or even permanent nature.
However, comparatively little is known of the functioning and especially the water requirements of many of the key species of the Pilbara and the ecosystems in which they occur. M. argentea is considered an obligate phreatophyte and is confined to riparian zones where there is permanent surface and near-surface water. M. argentea is thus very likely to be vulnerable to changes in groundwater levels, recharge patterns and altered water dynamics that may arise through abstraction and dewatering. Clearly, an understanding of tree water use patterns of M. argentea will provide much-needed information for ecosystem management, while also contributing to our fundamental understanding of riparian tree water use physiology along ephemeral waterways and their resilience to both natural and imposed dynamics in water availability.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2014


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