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Australia’s native herbivores are among its iconic natural resources, which must be protected for the cultural, environmental, and economic well-being of all Australians. A key feature of these animals is their "clean and green" image because of their low methane emissions (per kg of food intake) compared to ruminant livestock. This project explores and characterises newly discovered microbes representing the third Domain of Life (Archaea) from these animals and a critical control point in methane emissions from animals.
The project tackles knowledge gaps in understanding how changes in their environment might affect their nutrition and methane emissions from these animals, and how to monitor and correct it. It may also improve how we manage animals after natural disasters (e.g. fires) or relocation for population dispersal and conservation. The knowledge gains from this project can also support new and improved (bio)technologies relevant to minimising the carbon footprint and environmental impacts of our traditional industries, including agriculture.
This project also aims to provide deep functional understanding of our recent discovery of novel microbes from the Domain Archaea that inhabit the digestive tracts of native Australian herbivores. These animals are unique natural resources of great cultural, environmental, and economic significance, but increasingly susceptible to habitat change and degradation. Very little is currently known about the microbes that have co-evolved with these animals, to support their nutrition and health. The project's national benefits are both timely and broad.