Soil-dwelling microorganisms, including fungi and bacteria, facilitate many important ecological processes such as decomposition, nitrogen fixation and contaminant degradation. They can also act as pathogens of keystone species across indigenous landscapes, and of ruminants and commercial crops on agricultural land.
The aim of my research is to use high-throughput DNA sequencing, soil chemical data and quantitative analyses to map the biogeography of soil fungal communities from different land types (e.g., indigenous forest, pasture, plantations) across New Zealand. This will allow me to: 1) identify the underlying drivers of soil fungal community dynamics across different land uses and on local, regional and national scales, and 2) trace the distribution of key fungal pathogens of interest across these landscapes. This fungal data will be contrasted with trends observed from a parallel study focussing on soil bacterial DNA, collected from the same sites.
The results of my research project may have implications for the monitoring and management of pathogens within both indigenous forest and across New Zealand’s varied primary production land uses.