GEAI Research Project

Discovering the microbial universe hidden under our feet

The microbes (which include bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that live underground determine the health of the soil. Although they are invisible to the naked eye, soil microbes are essential for agricultural production and humans would not be able to produce the food we consume everyday without them. Soil microbes are true ecosystem engineers, being crucial for carbon and nutrient cycling.Landscape


CSIRO scientists and their collaborators (Bioplatforms Australia, DPI Victoria, DECWA, SEWPAC and SIEF) are embarking on a massive adventure to explore the diversity of soil microbes across the whole of the Australian continent. The team of researchers are visiting hundreds of locations in every state; from the cool forests of Tasmania to the hot deserts of central Australia and from the alpine grasslands of Victoria to the sand dune communities of the south coast.

Researchers will take soil samples and measure environmental conditions such as vegetation and soil type, pH and salinity. Once they have collected all of these soil samples, they will take them back to the lab to take a much closer look at the living things that lie beneath our feet.

The researchers will use newly developed geneomics tools to study the complex microbial communities found in the soil, hoping to find new species and to understand exactly how soil biodiversity is related to ecosystem function, agricultural production and above-ground biodiversity of animals and plants.

Knowledge about soil communities is limited so this project will also help to answer many crucial questions about our own species’ survival in the future given microbes’ importance to sustain biodiversity and form the basis of the agricultural systems we depend on to feed the world.

For further information please contact:

Dr Andrew Young, CSIRO,

Dr Owain Edwards, CSIRO,

Related links

GEAI Final Report Summary [PDF 237KB]
GEAI Toward Impact Brochure