Soil-dwelling microorganisms play critical roles in maintaining soil health and fertility. They comprise the majority of soil biomass, diversity, and disease causing agents, and provide nearly all vital soil ecosystem services. Despite their importance, soil microbial communities remain poorly understood, and we have only a limited understanding of the relationships between soil microbial community composition and functioning.
In collaboration with our regional council partners, our project seeks to map the composition and function of soil microbial communities across New Zealand, from a collation of 2000+ well characterized soil samples. Starting in 2013, soils have been collected from a broad variety of NZ landscapes including indigenous forest, exotic forest, high producing grasslands, low producing grasslands and also horticultural land uses and the microbial communities within them analysed using high throughput molecular techniques. This DNA-based survey of New Zealand’s soil-associated microorganisms is being used to progress a number of key research themes: (1) to map the distribution of microbial taxa across New Zealand’s native and production landscapes, (2) to map the biogeography of key microbial functions across New Zealand [e.g., capacity for nitrogen cycling and fixation], (3) to map the distribution of soil-dwelling pathogens of relevance to the economy of NZ’s productive landscapes and protection of New Zealand’s unique biological heritage.