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Ashcroft, Michael B. Dr

Associate Research Fellow

  • Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health
  • Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions
  • School of Biological Sciences

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • I am an ecological modeller, focusing on regional and landscape scale variations in climate and its effects on species distributions. Major study areas include temperate Australia and Antarctica. I have applied models to trees, invertebrates and mosses, with a particular focus on predicting impacts of climate change and identifying potential microrefugia.

Selected Publications


Impact Story


  • Plants in Antarctica are changing at a more alarming rate than first anticipated. There is well documented greening in the Arctic and on the Antarctic peninsula as ice retreats exposing more land. These regions are amongst the most rapidly warming on the planet. Warmer temperatures and increasing melt promote plant growth. Meanwhile on the continent, so far, there has been little evidence of warming so plant responses were expected to be slow and difficult to detect, until now.<br /><br />Alarmingly after only 13 years monitoring plant ecosystems we observed significant changes in the moss beds near Australia’s Casey station in East Antarctica. We have recently shown that these lush moss beds of the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica are rapidly drying due to cooler, windier summers caused by ozone depletion and climate change. We have developed advanced ways to analyse preserved climate records captured within these old-growth moss shoots establishing these miniature plants as accurate proxies to detect climate change in coastal East Antarctica. Our research has provided a history of the region's changing climate and these novel techniques can be used to determine sites in Antarctica where mosses are at risk of drying and dying.<br /><br />Our results show for the first time that climate change and ozone depletion are drying East Antarctic moss beds and demonstrate that Antarctic communities are already being affected despite a relatively small change so far. How these plant communities fare in future depends on implementation of and compliance with the Montreal Protocol and Paris Climate Agreement. Continued monitoring of these moss beds is important so that Antarctic Environmental Managers can protect these fascinating plant communities for the future.
  • In 2016 I gave a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4PsZlTGedU" title="YouTube: Antarctic Plants In A Time Of Change" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TEDX Antarctic plants in a time of change</a>.<br /><br />In 2017, this was featured in a story on <a href="https://ideas.ted.com/the-extraordinary-antarctic-plants-with-superhero-powers/" title="Featured Story: Extraordinary Antarctic Plants with Superhero Powers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ideas.ted.com.</a>

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy A novel high-resolution model of moss-bed microclimate in maritime Antarctica: importance of understanding microclimate for understanding species distributions Randall, Krystal

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • I am an ecological modeller, focusing on regional and landscape scale variations in climate and its effects on species distributions. Major study areas include temperate Australia and Antarctica. I have applied models to trees, invertebrates and mosses, with a particular focus on predicting impacts of climate change and identifying potential microrefugia.

Selected Publications


Impact Story


  • Plants in Antarctica are changing at a more alarming rate than first anticipated. There is well documented greening in the Arctic and on the Antarctic peninsula as ice retreats exposing more land. These regions are amongst the most rapidly warming on the planet. Warmer temperatures and increasing melt promote plant growth. Meanwhile on the continent, so far, there has been little evidence of warming so plant responses were expected to be slow and difficult to detect, until now.<br /><br />Alarmingly after only 13 years monitoring plant ecosystems we observed significant changes in the moss beds near Australia’s Casey station in East Antarctica. We have recently shown that these lush moss beds of the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica are rapidly drying due to cooler, windier summers caused by ozone depletion and climate change. We have developed advanced ways to analyse preserved climate records captured within these old-growth moss shoots establishing these miniature plants as accurate proxies to detect climate change in coastal East Antarctica. Our research has provided a history of the region's changing climate and these novel techniques can be used to determine sites in Antarctica where mosses are at risk of drying and dying.<br /><br />Our results show for the first time that climate change and ozone depletion are drying East Antarctic moss beds and demonstrate that Antarctic communities are already being affected despite a relatively small change so far. How these plant communities fare in future depends on implementation of and compliance with the Montreal Protocol and Paris Climate Agreement. Continued monitoring of these moss beds is important so that Antarctic Environmental Managers can protect these fascinating plant communities for the future.
  • In 2016 I gave a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4PsZlTGedU" title="YouTube: Antarctic Plants In A Time Of Change" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TEDX Antarctic plants in a time of change</a>.<br /><br />In 2017, this was featured in a story on <a href="https://ideas.ted.com/the-extraordinary-antarctic-plants-with-superhero-powers/" title="Featured Story: Extraordinary Antarctic Plants with Superhero Powers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ideas.ted.com.</a>

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy A novel high-resolution model of moss-bed microclimate in maritime Antarctica: importance of understanding microclimate for understanding species distributions Randall, Krystal
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