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Ms Jessica Bruce

Overview of thesis

Reedia spathacea F.Muell.: a study of the phylogeography, population structure and co-occurrence of a critically endangered sedge

My project aims to answer the question: Is Reedia spathacea a relictual taxon?

Reedia spathacea F.Muell is a declared rare, critically endangered species of sedge (Cyperaceae) found in the peat swamps of the Jarrah Forest and Warren Biogeographical Regions (Dept. of Environment, 2016). Reedia has been identified as a Gondwanan relict on the basis of morphological evidence (Tauss, 2000). Characteristics of relictual taxa in the south-west include being of Gondwanan or Pangaean origin (Wardell-Johnson & Horwitz, 1996), thus having become restricted to mesic habitat from a previously wider distribution (Hearn et al, 2002; Rix et al, 2015) and retaining some ancestral morphological states (see Burnham, 2014). They also are expected to have high interpopulational genetic diversity with relatively low intrapopulational diversity (Burnham, 2014) and be phylogenetically distinct from sister taxa (Nistelberger et al, 2014). These criteria will be used to explore whether R. spathacea is a relictual taxon using chloroplast and microsatellite DNA analyses supported by morphological and phylogeographic evidence. If this study supports the recognition of R. spathacea as a highly-restricted relict then the genetic consequences of historical population decline or future extinctions can be addressed. In a broader sense, our understanding of organisms that have become rare will be improved, in turn bettering our understanding of the pressures that have caused contraction in ranges historically, helping us to predict future trends in the face of a rapidly changing climate.


  • Burnham, QB (2014) Systematics and biogeography of the Australian burrowing crayfish genus Engaewa Riek (Decopoda: Parastacidae). Doctoral Thesis: Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia
  • Department of the Environment (2016). Reedia spathacea in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from:
  • Hearn, R, Williams, K & Comer, S (2002) Warren (WAR-Warren) in A Biodiversity Audit of Australia’s 53 Biogeographical Subregions in 2002: 637-655. Prepared for the Department of Conservation and Land Management, Canberra, ACT.
  • Nistelberger, H, Byrne, M, Coates, D & Roberts, JD (2014) Strong phylogeographic structure in a millipede indicates Pleistocene vicariance between populations on Banded Iron Formations in semi-arid Australia. PLoS ONE 9(3): 1-9
  • Rix, MG & Harvey, MS (2012) Phylogeny and historical biogeography of ancient assassin spiders (Aranae: Archaeidae) in the Australian mesic zone: Evidence for Miocene speciation within Tertiary refugia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62: 375-396
  • Tauss, C (2000) Preliminary studies of the biology and ecology of Reedia spathacea F.Muell. (Cyperaceae). (Unpublished dissertation) University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia.


  • Bachelor of Conservation and Wildlife Biology from Edith Cowan University, 2015


Research Interests

  • Comparative phylogeography
  • Population genetics
  • Plant and arthropod interaction
  • Plant sciences

Other work

  • Sessional teaching staff at Edith Cowan University, 2016
  • SCN1111 Health Sciences 1
  • SCI2116 Diversity of Life


Dr Margaret Byrne, DPaW


Ms Jessica Bruce
Centre for Ecosystem Management
School of Science
Edith Cowan University, Joondalup Campus


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