Researchers Have New Information on How Soil Feeds on the Air We Breathe

The soil in a grassland, a forest, a wetland and a desert is quietly working, transforming trace gases in the atmosphere. New research led by Associate Professor Chris Greening from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has found that more than 70% of soil bacteria feed on the hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane in the air we breathe. It was previously believed that only 1% of soil bacteria were active in this way. The study examined soil that was in a “natural” state – in an uncultivated native grassland north of Melbourne, in the Wombat State Forest in central Victoria, in a desert north of Alice Springs, and in the Jock Marshall wetlands on the Monash University Clayton campus. In each of these environments, trace gases were being transformed by soil bacteria at similar rates. The researchers also examined soils around the world, with the same results. “So we looked at really different ecosystems, completely different types of soil,” says study co-author Dr Eleonora Chiri. “We found the common denominator was the majority of the bacteria were doing this process. “Then we extended our investigation to look at DNA data from soil worldwide, checking the markers for the utilisation of these trace gases from the atmosphere. We found them everywhere – in tropical peatlands, alpine soils, other forests, grasslands and wetlands in different climatic zones. That helped us generalise in our findings.” “We need to preserve the states of our soil

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