Impacts of dust on plant health in semi-arid environments

Found in: News

Breaking the general perception that dust accumulation on plant leaves frequently causes negative impacts, a recent paper published by Astron scientists and industry partners has concluded that there is little evidence for this in semi-arid Australian environments.

In the paper recently published in Austral Ecology, Astron Senior Scientist Dr Aaron Gove and co-authors used two monitoring studies to look at the relationship between dust load and plant health and survival. While dust accumulated on plants close to dust sources, this accumulation was not related to changes in plant or community condition.

Aaron Gove says that semi-arid Australia plants may be well adapted to the stresses of dust, and that a bigger predictor of plant condition is cumulative rainfall, which probably affects dust loads on plants.

“We found no evidence to support the suggestion that dust impacts vegetation in these semi-arid environments at the dust levels and time scales observed. While it may be prudent to monitor vegetation condition associated with mining and other resource projects, the emphasis on dust deposition may not be justified,” Dr Aaron Gove said.

The paper: Impacts of dust on plant health, survivorship and plant communities in semi-arid environments, is published in the journal Austral Ecology. It was authored by Aaron Gove from Astron, Mamoru Matsuki and Mark Gardener (formerly Astron), Andrew Smith from Chevron Australia and Robert Howard from Cliffs Asia Pacific Iron Ore.

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