Soils are essential, yet a third of soil on Earth is severely degraded. Soils are crucial in providing ecosystem services including food production and carbon sequestration of greenhouse gases.
We focus on the importance of CO. Anthropogenic combustion processes are the major global source of CO amounting to about 1200 million tons per year. Approximately 40% of CO is produced from natural sources including volcanoes. Also, it is estimated that soil microorganisms consume about 300 million tons of CO per year.
Our research is important because CO negatively impacts the environment by reducing concentrations of hydroxyl radicals, which are the major sink for methane in the atmosphere, therefore, when there are lower levels of hydroxyl radicals there is going to be an increase in the residence time of the greenhouse gas methane. Increases in CO concentration in urban areas can have an impact on human health, as it is associated with an almost 5% increase in hospital admissions from cardiovascular disease.
In my group, we will use volcanic soils as a model system. Volcanic soils are among the most fertile in the world. Trace-gases, such as CO, from volcanic deposits are also important because they are the primary source of carbon and energy for microbes during soil formation on volcanic rocks.
In summary, we aim to:
Examine the microbial and molecular mechanisms underpinning soil formation.
Determine the role of trace gas metabolism in soil development using volcanic soils as a model
This will provide fundamental knowledge for sustainable agriculture in the future.