Doctor Adam Frew

Dr Adam FrewI’m interested in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, how they affect plants and the ability of plants to cope with herbivory.

I obtained my PhD from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in 2017, where I studied the impacts of the soil environment on root feeding insects. I was then awarded an independent research fellowship at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga where I continued to pursue my interests in belowground ecology by exploring aspects of how arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi affect plant performance and responses to insect herbivory. After this fellowship I took up an ongoing faculty position at the University of Southern Queensland teaching into a variety of environmental and sustainability subjects while continuing my research into mycorrhizal ecology.

I was awarded an ARC DECRA that explores how agricultural management shapes mycorrhizal fungal diversity and how community composition impacts plant defences against insect herbivores. At this point, the call to return to HIE was one I could no longer ignore, and I (re-) joined the institute in 2022.

Awards and Recognition

  • Next Generation Ecologist Award by the Ecological Society of Australia (2023)
  • Awarded a Young Tall Poppy Science Award by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (2021)
  • Awarded a Thomas Davies Award and Grant by the Australian Academy of Science (2020)

Teaching expertise

Sustainability Science (Coordinator), 2019-2021, UniSQ
Sustainable Resource Use (Coordinator), 2019-2021,  UniSQ
Ecology for Sustainability (Lecturer), 2019-2021, UniSQ
Environmental Studies (Lecturer), 2019-2021, UniSQ
Conservation for Sustainable Futures (Lecturer), 2019-2021, UniSQ


Sowing the spores of sustainability: linking fungal community ecology and functional outcomes to promote sustainable crop production
Partner/Funding Body: British Ecological Society
Period: 2023-2025

Delivering defences: Using fungi to enhance plant resistance to herbivory
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council DECRA
Period: 2022-2024

What mycorrhizal fungal communities effect plant responses to root herbivory?

Partner/Funding Body: Thomas Davies Research Grant for Plant, Soil, and Marine Biology
Period: 2021-2022

Finding fungal friends for a fight: How do different mycorrhizal fungal communities alter plant defences?

Partner/Funding Body: British Ecology Society
Period: 2020

Fields of Research

Community Ecology; Microbial Ecology; Soil Biology


Birnbaum C, Dearnaley J, Egidi E, Frew A, Hopkins A, Powell J, Aguilar-Trigueros C, Liddicoat C, Albornoz F, Heuck M, Dadzie FA, Florence L, Singh P, Mansfield T, Rajapaksha K, Stewart J, Rallo P, Peddle SD, Chiarenza G, (2024) 'Integrating soil microbial communities into fundamental ecology, conservation, and restoration: examples from Australia', New Phytologist, vol.241, no.3, pp 974-981

Frew A, (2023) 'Water availability alters the community structure of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and determines plant mycorrhizal benefit', Plants People Planet, vol.5, no.5, pp 683-689

Frew A, Aguilar-Trigueros CA, (2023) 'Australia offers unique insight into the ecology of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi: An opportunity not to be lost', Austral Ecology, vol.48, no.8, pp 1713-1720

Frew A, Heuck MK, Aguilar-Trigueros CA, (2023) 'Host filtering, not competitive exclusion, may be the main driver of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal community assembly under high phosphorus', Functional Ecology, vol.37, no.7, pp 1856-1869

Greenwood L, Nimmo DG, Egidi E, Price JN, McIntosh R, Frew A, (2023) 'Fire shapes fungal guild diversity and composition through direct and indirect pathways', Molecular Ecology, vol.32, no.17, pp 4921-4939

Heuck MK, Birnbaum C, Frew A, (2023) 'Friends to the rescue: using arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to future-proof Australian agriculture', Microbiology Australia, vol.44, no.1, pp 5-8

Ng A, Wilson BAL, Frew A, (2023) 'Belowground crop responses to root herbivory are associated with the community structure of native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi', Applied Soil Ecology, vol.185, Article no.104797

Johnson SN, Powell JR, Frew A, Cibils-Stewart X, (2022) 'Silicon accumulation suppresses arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization in the model grass Brachypodium distachyon', Plant and Soil, (in press)

Frew A, (2022) 'Root herbivory reduces species richness and alters community structure of root-colonising arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi', Soil Biology & Biochemistry, vol.171, p 108723

Frew A, Antunes PM, Cameron DD, Hartley SE, Johnson SN, Rillig MC, Bennett AE, (2022) 'Plant herbivore protection by arbuscular mycorrhizas: A role for fungal diversity?' New Phytologist, vol.233, pp 1022-1031

Frew A, (2021) 'Aboveground herbivory suppresses the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis, reducing plant phosphorus uptake', Applied Soil Ecology, vol.168, p 104133

Frew A, Wilson BAL, (2021) 'Different mycorrhizal fungal communities differentially affect plant phenolic-based resistance to insect herbivory', Rhizosphere, vol. 9, p 100365

Frew A, Price JN, Oja J, Vasar M, Öpik M, (2021) 'Impacts of elevated atmospheric CO₂ on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and their role in moderating plant allometric partitioning', Mycorrhiza, vol. 31, pp 423-430

Johnson SN, Hartley SE, Ryalls JMW, Frew A, Hall CR, (2021) 'Targeted plant defense: silicon conserves hormonal defense signaling impacting chewing but not fluid-feeding herbivores', Ecology, vol.102,  Article e03250

Frew A, (2021) 'Contrasting effects of commercial and native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal inoculants on plant biomass allocation, nutrients, and phenolics', Plants, People, Planet, vol.3, pp 536-540

Frew A, Powell JR, Johnson SN, (2020) 'Aboveground resource allocation in response to root herbivory as affected by the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis', Plant and Soil, vol.447, pp 463-473

Frew A, (2019) 'Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal diversity increases growth and phosphorus uptake in C3 and C4 plants', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.135, pp 248-250

Frew A, Weston LA, Gurr GM, (2019) 'Silicon reduces herbivore performance via different mechanisms, depending on host-plant species', Austral Ecology, vol.44, pp 1092-1097

Frew A, Price JN, (2019) 'Mycorrhizal-mediated plant-herbivore interactions in a high CO2 world', Functional Ecology, vol.33, pp 1376-1385

Frew A, Powell JR, Glauser G, Bennett AE, Johnson SN, (2018) 'Mycorrhizal fungi enhance nutrient uptake but disarm defences in plant roots, promoting plant-parasitic nematode populations', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.126, pp 123-132

Johnson SN, Ryalls JMW, Gherlenda AG, Frew A, Hartley SE, (2018) 'Benefits from below: Silicon supplementation maintains legume productivity under predicted climate change scenarios', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.9, p 202

Johnson SN, Lopaticki G, Aslam TJ, Barnett K, Frew A, Hartley SE, Hiltpold I, Nielsen UN, Ryalls JMW, (2018) 'Dryland management regimes alter forest habitats and understory arthropod communities', Annals of Applied Biology, vol.172, pp 282-294

Frew A, Weston LA, Reynolds OL, Gurr GM, (2018) 'The role of silicon in plant biology: a paradigm shift in research approach', Annals of Botany, vol.121, pp 1265-1273

Frew A, Powell JR, Allsopp PG, Sallam N, Johnson SN, (2017) 'Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi promote silicon accumulation in plant roots, reducing the impacts of root herbivory', Plant and Soil, vol.419, pp 423-433

Frew A, Powell JR, Hiltpold I, Allsopp PG, Sallam N, Johnson SN, (2017) 'Host plant colonisation by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi stimulates immune function whereas high root silicon concentrations diminish growth in a soil-dwelling herbivore', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.112,  pp 117-126

Johnson SN, Hartley SE, Ryalls JMW, Frew A, DeGabriel JL, Duncan M, Gherlenda AN, (2017) 'Silicon-induced root nodulation and synthesis of essential amino acids in a legume is associated with higher herbivore abundance', Functional Ecology, vol.31, pp 1903-1909

Frew A, Allsopp PG, Gherlenda AG, Johnson SN, (2017) 'Increased root herbivory under elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is reversed by silicon-based plant defences', Journal of Applied Ecology, vol.54, pp 1310-1319

Johnson SN, Benefer CM, Frew A, Griffiths BS, Hartley SE, Karley AJ, Rasmann S, Schumann M, Sonnemann I, Robert CAM, (2016) 'New frontiers in belowground ecology for plant protection from root-feeding insects', Applied Soil Ecology, vol.108, pp 96-107

Frew A, Powell JR, Sallam N, Allsopp PG, Johnson SN, (2016) 'Trade-offs between silicon and phenolic defenses may explain enhanced performance of root herbivores on phenolic-rich plants', Journal of Chemical Ecology, vol.42, pp 768-771

Frew A, Barnett K, Riegler M, Nielsen UN, Johnson SN, (2016) 'Belowground ecology of scarabs feeding on grass roots: current knowledge and future directions for management in Australasia', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.7, p 321

Johnson SN, Gherlenda AN, Frew A, Ryalls JMW, (2016) 'The importance of testing multiple environmental factors in legume-insect research: replication, reviewers and rebuttal', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.7, p 489

Frew A, Nielsen UN, Riegler M, Johnson SN, (2013) 'Do eucalypt plantation management practices create understory reservoirs of scarab beetle pests in the soil?', Forest Ecology and Management, vol.306, pp 275-280