Soil microbes: Key to maintaining life on earth
Microbes mediate many soil processes that are essential for the health of our environment. This includes supporting the production of food and fibre by providing nutrients to plants on which humans rely. Microbes also contribute to soils being able to provide other important ecosystem services, such as absorbing and releasing CO2, and breaking down contaminants. Microbes also have important negative impacts, for example, plant pathogens that can decrease food production. While soil microbes only make up a small proportion of soil mass (<1%), they are a highly diverse group of organisms that include bacteria, fungi, and archaea. While we know that soil microorganisms are important for life on Earth, we know very little about them compared with larger organisms. In particular, we do not fully understand how they respond to climate, land use or farm-management changes. Further, more information is needed on what the consequences of changes in microbial communities will mean for the health of our environment.
At Landcare Research we are undertaking microbial research in a number of areas, including:
- Using advanced DNA techniques to assess microbial communities
- Linking community change to ecosystem functions
- Effects of climate change-driven drought on microbes
- How microbes respond to irrigation in pasture soils
- Describing fungi and bacteria