PhD update – Matt Binns

I am about to submit my thesis assessing the response of grassland Thysanoptera to climate. Thysanoptera were collected from Themeda triandra grasslands across a climatic gradient in NSW and Victoria, Australia across four seasons. The R package mvabund was used to determine how different species are associated with different environmental variables, and how environmental variables and morphological traits interact to determine abundance. It was found that mostly microclimate data obtained at tussock level was best at explaining the variation of thysanoptera abundances. Microclimate data at certain periods, such as during thysanoptera growth periods and near sampling, was important to consider in addition to annual means. I also simulated a warmer, drier climate by performing a transplant experiment across three different sites using both diploid and tetraploid Themeda triandra plants. I found that two species of thrips preferentially colonised foreign Themeda triandra when transplanted in the field. The indication that plants of foreign genotype could be particularly attractive to generalist herbivores may imply an increase in herbivory pressure on the plants when insect shift their range to accommodate changing climatic conditions.

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