Using soil to monitor biodiversity

4 September 2014

Biodiversity in the wet-dry tropics is in good condition compared with more developed parts of southern Australia. It is important to have effective monitoring programs to inform management, as plans to develop the north progress and sea level rise threatens World Heritage-listed areas like Kakadu National Park.

Our researchers have been using genomics to determine if these novel techniques can provide data cost-effectively, where little information currently exists.

In Kakadu, scientists from the CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Charles Darwin University have been using the DNA found in floodplain sediment samples to identify the extent of biodiversity in the park.

Just a handful of sediment contains billions of bacterial cells and small animals, such as insects, shellfish, worms and crabs, which provide vital nutrients to larger animals.

Past techniques could only identify a few species at a time and were very expensive. Bacteria and animals living in the sediment leave behind traces of their DNA. Advanced genetic techniques termed ‘ecogenomics’ read the sequence of the DNA found in the samples to simultaneously identify thousands of bacteria and animals in samples.

Having collected this baseline data, it is now possible to develop a monitoring program which can provide an early indication of environmental changes from saltwater intrusion. Watch the video or read more about this project.


Stay informed

Want to know more about the Resilient Landscapes Hub's activities and our research into practical solutions to environmental problems? Stay informed about activities, research, publications, events and more through the Hub newsletter.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.