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Climate Change Research in Antarctica Featured

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Antarctic Plants and Global Change

An Overview of my Antarctic Research Projects

Since plant growth in Antarctica is very slow, we use a range of chemical, molecular and physiological techniques to predict how terrestrial biodiversity in Antarctica will change as a result of climate change.

Our work is providing important insights into the biology of these plants that survive and grow in conditions equivalent to a freezer. Our research provides evidence that the Antarctic endemic moss Schisitidium antarctici is likely to be more susceptible to climate change than two co-occurring cosmopolitan species Ceratodon purpureus and Bryum pseudotriquetrum (Robinson et al 2005 PDF 681k, Wasley et al 2006 a, b).


Collind Glacier King George Island


My Group is Investigating:


How changes in water and nutrient availability will affect plant growth in Antarctica (see Robinson et al 2000, 178k PDF, Robinson et al. 2005 681k PDF, Wasley et al (2006a & b)

The impact of the ozone hole and the resultant increase in UV-B radiation on these communities (sunscreen pigments, DNA damage and potential for genetic mutation in Antarctic plants). (Turnbull et al. 2009, Turnbull and Robinson 2009; Lovelock, C.E. and Robinson, S.A. (2002); Robinson et al. 2005). We are also looking at the ways in which the ozone hole has changed the climate of East Antarctica, making it windier and therefore drier (Clarke et al 2012).

The bioactive compounds responsible for the high UV, desiccation and cold tolerance of Antarctic mosses (Robinson & Waterman 2014).

The impact of pollution on Antarctic Plants (Bramley-Alves et al. 2014).


We are using remote sensing to map Antarctic Ecosystems

Our research in Antarctica also involves collaboration with the Terraluma group at the University of Tasmania to assess the practicality of using near remote sensing from UAVs to map and monitor vegetation change in these sensitive communities. (Turner et al., 2014; Lucieer et al 2014) Lovelock, C.E. and Robinson, S.A. 2002)


Current PostDocs & Students

Dr Mick Ashcroft PostDoc

Johanna Turnbull - PostDoc

Diana King - PhD

Melinda Waterman - PostDoc



Recent Grants

Australian Research Council Discovery Project. Mapping Antarctic climate change in space and time using mosses as biological proxies.

Antarctic Science Grant. Modelling spatial patterns and identifying environmental drivers for temporal change in Antarctic moss communities.


Related publications

Turner, J., N. E. Barrand, T. J. Bracegirdle, P. Convey, D. A. Hodgson, M. Jarvis, A. Jenkins, G. Marshall, M. P. Meredith, H. Roscoe, J. Shanklin, J. French, H. Goosse, M. Guglielmin, J. Gutt, S. Jacobs, M. C. I. Kennicutt, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Mayewski, F. Navarro, S. Robinson, T. Scambos, M. Sparrow, C. Summerhayes, K. Speer, and A. Klepikov. (2013) Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment: an update. Polar Record 50: 237 – 259.

Convey, P., Chown, S.L., Clarke, A., Barnes, D.K.A., Bokhorst, S., Cummings, V., Ducklow, H.W., Frati, F., Green, T.G.A., Gordon, S., Griffiths, H.J., Howard-Williams, C., Huiskes, A.H.L., Laybourn-Parry, J., Lyons, W.B., McMinn, A., Morley, S.A., Peck, L.S., Quesada, A., Robinson, S.A., Schiaparelli, S., Wall, D.H. (2014) The spatial structure of Antarctic biodiversity. Ecological Monographs 84: 203-244. 

Williamson, C.E., Zepp, R.G., Lucas, R.M., Madronich, S., Austin, A.T., Ballaré, C.L., Norval, M., Sulzberger, B., Bais, A.F., McKenzie, R.L., Robinson, S.A., Häder, D-P., Paul, N.D., Bornman, J.F. (2014) Solar Ultraviolet Radiation in a Changing Climate. Nature Climate Change 4: 434-441. 

Bramley-Alves, J, Wasley, J, King, CK, Powell, S, Robinson, SA. (2014) Phytoremediation of hydrocarbon contaminants in subantarctic soils: an effective management option. Journal of Environmental Management. 142: 60-69. 

Turner, D., Lucieer, A., Malenovsky, Z., King, D., Robinson, S.A. (2014) Spatial co-registration of ultra-high resolution visible, multispectral and thermal images acquired with a Micro-UAV over Antarctic moss beds. Remote Sensing 6: 4003-4024. 

Lucieer, A., Turner, D., King, D.K., Robinson, S.A. (2014) Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to capture micro-topography of Antarctic moss beds. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and GeoInformation.

Wasley, J., Robinson, S.A., Popp, M., Lovelock, C.E. (2006a) Climate change manipulations show Antarctic flora is more strongly affected by elevated nutrients than water. Global Change Biology 12 1800-1812.

Wasley, J., Robinson, S.A., Popp, M., Lovelock, C.E. (2006b) Some like it wet – biological characteristics underpinning tolerance of extreme water events in Antarctic bryophytes. Functional Plant Biology 33 443-455.

Robinson, S.A., Turnbull, J.D. Lovelock, C.E. (2005) Impact of changes in natural UV radiation on pigment composition, surface reflectance and photosynthetic function of the Antarctic moss, Grimmia antarctici. Global Change Biology 11 476-489.
Paper in PDF (681k)

Robinson, S.A., Wasley, J. and Tobin, A.K. (2003) Living on the edge-plants and global change in continental and maritime Antarctica. Global Change Biology 9 1681-1717 Paper in PDF (432k)

Robinson, S.A. (2002) Indicator 72-Windmill Islands terrestrial vegetation dynamics. Antarctic State of the Environment Indicator.

Lovelock, C.E. and Robinson, S.A. (2002) Surface reflectance properties of Antarctic moss and their relationship to plant species, pigment composition and photosynthetic function. Plant Cell and Environment 25: 1239-1250. Paper in PDF (284k)

Robinson, S.A., Wasley, J., Popp, M. and Lovelock, C.E. (2000) Desiccation tolerance of three moss species from continental Antarctica. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 27 379-388. Paper in PDF (178k)






Sahron Robinson Publications
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Sharon Robinson

Senior Professor at University of Wollongong

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