during two recent trips to tasmania, i had the opportunity to discover the beauty of the island and its amazing wildlife. while the australian and tasmanian fauna generally receives much attention, the plant life here is not less extraordinary.
with this post, i’m using the opportunity to briefly introduce some trees and other woody plant species i encountered on the island. while some of these species also occur in a wider range in australia, some others represent the species’ last/only occurrence in the world, and a few of them date back to the supercontinent gondwana and a time before even the age of dinosaurs. tragically, most of these old species are very vulnerable to bushfires, and a large area was struck by widespread bushfires in january 2016.
on a recent beach stroll on the northern new south wales coast, i came across small weird-looking blue-and-white creatures with lots of appendages. having washed ashore, they looked more like unshapely blobs, but as soon as they got into a bit of water, they unfolded into a beautiful combination of shape and colour.
common names of this creature (glaucus atlanticus) are blue dragon, sea swallow or blue angel. [more...]
here’s of time-lapse of thunderstorm clouds rolling in over the calperum mallee, south australia. at less than 250 mm mean annual rainfall, every drop of rain counts. this short rainfall burst brought 7 mm of rain.
recorded with a brinno tlc200 pro at 20 s interval.
i’ve always been fascinated by bioluminescent phenomena. in a relatively wide range of organisms, evolution at some point produced species that can produce light, from marine plankton in warm seas, to fireflies, to the famous deep sea anglerfish.
lesser known is the fact that damp wood can also give off a very faint glow in the forest at night. the bioluminescence in this case is produced by fungi, whose mycelium as well as fruiting bodies glow faintly. it is believed that this helps attract insects that will disperse their spores.
a recent research trip to the daintree rainforest in far north queensland, australia, gave me a first opportunity to see bioluminescent fungi. [more...]
it’s been rather quiet in the blog lately, so i thought i’d share a peek into what we’ve been up to at work:
Hydraulic vulnerability analysis using X-ray microCT
One of the major points of critique for hydraulic measurements of xylem vulnerability and embolism is that they are destructive measurements. In contrast, non-invasive imaging has made it possible to observe xylem function and the spread of embolism in living, intact plants without destructive sampling and associated artefacts.
In collaboration with Iain Young and Richard Flavel at the University of New England, Armidale, we recently scanned the stems of young Eucalyptus trees at high resolution using X-ray Micro Computed Tomography (microCT) to visualize the loss of hydraulic function at increasing levels of drought. [more...]
in mid-march, the hochmahdkopf forest fire claimed a total of 120 hectares of protective forest and turned into the biggest forest fire in tyrol’s history. restauration measures are expected to take about 15 years.
about three weeks after the fire, i did a short hike to check out the latschenegg site, and it looked like nature was beginning to reclaim the charred area:
below are two interactive lytro pictures that capture the story:
stellate parenchyma is a form of aeration tissue (aerenchyma) in plants, which helps with internal air circulation in plants. the tissue is typical of aquatic and wetland plants, and consists of cells with large intercellular spaces that allow air supply to underwater plant parts.
due to the very narrow depth of field at high magnification, the picture is actually a focus stack of 22 combined layers. to get a feeling for the three-dimensional structure of this anatomical section, check out the animation below: [more...]