A large and unique research collaboration is providing the first comprehensive Australia-wide inventory of soil biodiversity to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability.

The challenge

Understanding soil organisms

The most diverse ecosystem on earth lies just under our feet.

Soil is composed of a rich diversity of organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae that form microbial communities.

Despite the importance of these ecosystem engineers, soil microbes are one of the least understood communities in Australia and the world.

A greater understanding of soil microbe communities is important for determining plant species abundance, soil health and agricultural productivity.

Our response

Collaborating to map biodiversity

As part of a large and internationally-unique research collaboration with government, universities and industry, we’re mapping Australia’s soil biodiversity.

The Biomes of Australian Soil Environments (BASE) project includes funding support from our Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) as part of a larger research project aimed at developing innovative tools and approaches to better understand the relationship between soil microbes and their living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) environments.

An innovative DNA-based approach will be used to undertake large-scale spatial and temporal analysis of soil microbial diversity in relation to soil environments, vegetation and land use.

BASE research partners include:

  • Bioplatforms Australia
  • the Director of National Parks
  • Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Victorian Department of Primary Industries
  • several universities and research organisations.

The results

Supporting agricultural productivity

Through this project, we will provide the first comprehensive continent-wide inventory of soil biodiversity.

It will offer unique opportunities to model relationships between plant and microbial diversity and explore the importance of microbes for ecological stability, resilience and sustainable agricultural production.

The data generated will also give a unique insight into the diversity, evolution and ecological function of Australia’s soil communities.

BASE will provide information to integrate the restoration of soil communities into the ongoing broad scale revegetation efforts that are underway across the country.

It will also provide much needed decision support to agricultural industries on soil management options that promote favourable soil community responses.

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