Understanding responses of tightly coupled ecological interactions of biota vulnerable to climate change: endangered Australian cycads and their pollinators (2010–2012)
Cycads are among the oldest plants. Their cones are unusual they generate metabolic heat and this mediates an intricate and highly specific insect-based pollen transfer system. Climate is crucial here, for thermogenic metabolism is triggered when ambient temperature reaches a threshold. Cone heat and volatile chemicals then push the insects from male cones whilst the females pull them in chemically. Changing environmental temperatures will affect the coordination of such systems, so we are investigating how cycads will respond to future climates and thus how other tightly coupled ecological interactions will be affected by climate change. This is essential knowledge for the future management of vulnerable Australian biota.