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Dryland regions, which cover 40% of the global terrestrial area, and comprise a third of global biodiversity hotspots, are being seriously affected by soil degradation processes. The need to develop cost-effective large-scale solutions to restore these landscapes, is crucial to preserve biodiversity and achieve ecosystem functionality and sustainability. Indigenous soil bacteria, including cyanobacteria from soil biocrusts, have shown promise as bio-fertilizers as they may promote seedling growth of native plants, and fix carbon and nitrogen into the soil. However, these bio-inoculants have not yet been fully exploited for ecological restoration. In this talk, I will present our most recent research on i) the effects of bio-priming seeds with indigenous bacteria and cyanobacteria on plant growth of native plants used in dryland restoration; ii) the potential of cyanobacteria consortia for restoring soil function on reconstructed soils; and iii) the development of novel methodologies for targeted delivery of functional bacteria and cyanobacteria (i.e., via bio-encapsulation in extruded pellets). Our results have shown that both bacteria and cyanobacteria promote germination and seedling growth of native arid species, including hummock grasses and Acacia trees and shrubs. We also found that cyanobacteria inoculation can increase the levels of soil carbon and microbial diversity and promote the formation of a functional soil biocrust. These biotechnological approaches for indigenous microbial application in degraded drylands, are currently being applied in large-scale restoration programs across the Australian arid zone.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program