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Department of Biological Sciences

 Plant-Insect Interactions and Climate Change Ecology Lab




Tel: +61 2 9850 8195

Fax: +61 2 9850 8245



1. Impacts of climate change on species and natural ecosystems

I am very interested in the potential impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems and am convinced that this is the most serious and challenging environmental issue we face. The main strength of my research in this area has been to integrate a number of different methods, from small-scale field and laboratory manipulations, to computer modeling of potential impacts on hundreds of species. This research interest has led to work focused on the implications of climate change on the applied issues of land management and conservation policy in Australia and elsewhere. I am currently involved in a large collaborative project assessing the impacts of climate change on the major environmental weeds in Australia.

2. Evolutionary ecology of plant-insect interactions

I have a long-standing interest in how plants and animals, especially insects, interact and how they have affected each other’s evolution. Herbivorous insects and green plants together make up over half of all known biodiversity. I find the range of behaviours shown by insects fascinating and believe that we are just beginning to unravel the complexity of their coevolution with plants. The potential for studying this topic in Australia is enormous as most insect ecology in Australia has been previously directed toward applied issues such as pest control, rather than fundamental ecology and evolution.

3. Spatial and evolutionary organization of biodiversity

I am working in collaboration with Profs Andy Beattie and Roger Kitching, leaders in the field of insect biodiversity, Dr Dan Faith, a leader in phylogenetic analysis for conservation purposes and with Dr David Nipperess to investigate the relationship between insect biodiversity and the phylogenetic relatedness of host plants. This project has the potential to make a major contribution to the global understanding of biodiversity and contribute significantly to conservation efforts.


Research team

I lead a dynamic and lively research group (known as PICCEL, the Plant-insect Interaction and Climate Change Ecology Lab). This group currently consists of six postgraduate students at Macquarie and two postdoctoral fellows. This group meets weekly to discuss recent journal articles and to offer feedback to each other on research projects.



I am unit convener for BIOL316 Invertebrates: Evolution, Behaviour and Diversity. I also give regular guest lectures for BIOL368 Ecology and Evolution and ENVE214 Climate Change.



International scientific community

  • Lead Author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth & Fifth Assessment Reports (AR4 & AR5), Working Group II
  • Australian Representative on the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Biodiversity and Climate Change (appointed October 2008)
  • Contributing Author, Working Group II, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2004-2007), Chapt. 4 Ecosystems
  • Expert Reviewer, Working Group II, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2004-2007)
  • Australian representative: Working party to draft guidelines on response of Red List species to climate change, IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), London, Feb 2003
  • Appointed member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (2005-)
  • Invited Reviewer, draft report on “Interlinkages between Biological Diversity and Climate Change and Advice on the Integration of Biodiversity Considerations into the Implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and its Kyoto Protocol), Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat, May 2003

National scientific community

  • Appointed member, federal Land Sector Carbon & Biodiversity Board (2011-2012)
  • Appointed member of federal Climate Commission (Feb 2010-2013)
  • Co-convenor, Terrestrial Biodiversity Adaptation Research Network for National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) (2008-present)
  • Founding member, Climate Scientists Australia (
  • Chair, drafting team for the National Adaptation Plan for Terrestrial Biodiversity, NCCARF (2009-2010)
  • Appointed member, Botanic Gardens Trust (2008-2011) and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Trust
  • Member of review panel, CSIRO Division of Entomology research program (February 2010)
  • NSW Scientific Committee (2003-2006), Deputy Chair 2003-2004, Chair 2005-2008
  • Biological Impacts node leader and co-convenor, ARC Network for Earth System Science (2005- present)
  • Appointed member Expert Advisory Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity, Australian Greenhouse Office (2007- 2009)
  • Appointed member, NSW Dept of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW), Climate Change Science Research Network (2008-)
  • Appointed member, management committee, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) (2007-present)
  • Consultant to World Wildlife Fund Climate Witness program (2007-)
  • Appointed member, Scientific Advisory Committee, World Wildlife Fund (2008-2009)
  • Summiteer, Prime Minister’s 2020 Summit, “Population, sustainability, climate change and the future of our cities’ group (April 2008)
  • Member, Climate Watch Science Advisory Panel, Earthwatch (2007-present)


Selected publications (2009 onwards)

Morton SR, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Lindenmayer DB, Harriss Olson M, Hughes L, McCulloch MT. McIntyre S, Nix HA, Prober SM, Saunders DA, Andersen AN, Burgman MA, Lefroy EC, Lonsdale WM, Lowe I,  McMichael AJ, Parslow JS, Steffen W, Williams JE, Woinarski JCZ  (2009) The big ecological questions inhibiting effective environmental management in Australia. Austral Ecology 34, 1-9

Gallagher  RV, Hughes L & Leishman MR (2009) Phenological trends among Australian alpine species: using herbarium records to identify climate change indicators. Australian Journal of Botany 57: 1-9

Kingsford RT, Watson JEM, Lundquist, C J, Venter O, Hughes L, Johnston EL, Atherton J, Gawel M, Keith DA, Mackey BG, Morley C, Possingham HP, Raynor B, Recher H F, Wilson KA. (2009) Major conservation policy issues for biodiversity in Oceania, Melanesia, Micronesia, New Zealand and Polynesia. Conservation Biology 23: 834-840

Beaumont LJ, Gallagher RV, Downey PO, Thuiller W, Leishman MR,, Hughes L. (2009) Different climatic envelopes among invasive populations may lead to underestimations of current and future biological invasions. Diversity and Distributions 15: 409-420

Keith DA, Orscheg C, Simpson CC, Clarke PJ, Hughes L, Kennelly SJ, Major RE, Soderquist TR, Wilson AL, Bedward M. (2009) Estimating extent and rates of broad-scale habitat loss for ecological communities: a case study of vegetation clearing in a semi-arid woodland. Biological Conservation 142: 1469-1479

Hughes L. (2009) The NSW Scientific Committee: assessment procedures and independence. Ecological Management and Restoration 10 (S1) S140-S142

Wilson, PD, Downey PO, Leishman M, Gallagher R, Hughes L, O’Donnell J (2009) Weeds in a warmer world: predicting the impact of climate change on Australia's alien plant species using MaxEnt. Plant Protection Quarterly 24: 84-97

Beaumont LJ, Gallagher RV, Thuiller W, Downey PO, Leishman MR, Hughes L. (2009) Climatic niche shifts among invasive species can lead to underestimations of current and future biological invasions. Ecography 32: 757-764

Sinclair R, Hughes L. (2010) Leaf miners: The hidden herbivores. Austral Ecology 35: 300-313

Lindenmayer DB, Steffen W, Burbidge AA, Hughes L, Kitching R, Musgrave W, Stafford Smith M, and Werner P. (2010) Conservation strategies in response to rapid climate change: Australia as a case study. Biological Conservation 143: 1587-1593

Roubicek AJ, Van Der Wal J, Beaumont LJ, Pitman AJ, Wilson P, Hughes L (2010) Does the choice of climate baseline matter in ecological niche modelling? Ecological Modelling 221: 2280-2286

Moir ML, Vesk PA, Brennan KEC, Keith DA, Hughes L, McCarthy MA (2010) Current constraints and future directions in estimating co-extinction. Conservation Biology 24: 682-690

Gallagher RV, Beaumont LJ, Hughes L & Leishman MR. (2010) Evidence for climatic niche shifts between native and novel ranges in exotic plant species. Journal of Ecology 98:790-799

Gallagher, R.V., Hughes, L., Leishman, M.R. & Wilson, P.O. (2010) Predicted impact of exotic vines on an endangered ecological community under future climate change. Biological Invasions 12: SI 4049-4063

Moir ML, Vesk PA, Brennan KEC, Keith DA, Hughes L, McCarthy MA (2011). Identifying and managing co-threatened invertebrates by assessing coextinction risk. Conservation Biology 25: 787-796

Hughes L. (2011) Climate change and Australia: Key vulnerable regions. Regional Environmental Change 11: S189-S195

Nipperess DA, Beattie AJ, Faith DP, Ginn SG, Kitching RL, Reid CAM, Russell T, Hughes L (2011) Plant phylogeny as a surrogate for turnover in beetle assemblages. Biodiversity Conservation DOI 10.1007/s10531-011-0185-y

O’Donnell, J., Gallagher, R. V., Wilson, P. D., Downey, P. O., Hughes, L. & Leishman, M. R. Invasion hotspots for non-native plants in Australia under climate change. Global Change Biology (in press, accepted 26th July, 2011)




Building E8B 276

Department of Biological Sciences

Macquarie University

North Ryde

NSW 2109




Photo by Sabine Nooten


Photo by Sabine Nooten


Photo by Abigail Cabrelli


What a lovely sidebar!

It surely is nice!


What a lovely sidebar!

It surely is nice!