ACA member Dr Belinda Ferrari has been awarded a highly prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to challing our global underderstanding of carbon fixation.
In most ecosystems, phototrophic carbon fixation by plants, algae and cyanobacteria is the primary production strategy supporting higher trophic life. Yet little genetic evidence for photosynthesis exists in nutrient starved desert soils in eastern Antarctica.
Belinda's objective is to establish what primary production process dominates these nutrient-starved soils. She will look at:
- Trace gas scavenging through the consumption of atmospheric hydrogen, CO and CO2 gas supplies energy to support maintenance of these communities and the carbon to sustain biomass production, and
- Whether these processes are structuring soil microbial communities, particularly in response to environmental change by resampling the same sites 14 years later.
The intended outcome is to arrive at a paradigm shift in our understanding of primary production at the nutritional limits of life by describing a third mode of carbon fixation distinct from phototrophy or geothermal chemotrophy for the first time.