Thesis: Vegetation as a biotic driver for the formation of soil geochemical anomalies for mineral exploration of covered terranes
In areas where ore deposits are found, “geochemical anomalies” (local concentration of elements in soils above background values) can be present in surface soils. Neither the mechanisms governing the formation of such signatures, nor trace element biogeochemical cycles, which control their formation, are well understood. The aim of this project was twofold: measuring trace element biogeochemical fluxes, and modelling the biological controls on geochemical anomaly formation. The project culminated in the production of a quantitative model of geochemical signature formation, presenting a novel approach to understanding how geochemical anomalies form, and how ecosystems respond to metal pollution in soils. I was also interested in the chemistry of natural charcoal as a possible trace element sink.
Why my research is important
Despite their obviously important role in ecosystems, the biogeochemical cycling of trace elements has yet to be fully explored, especially with regard to the involvement of the biosphere. In addition, biological fluxes of elements may be linked to the formation of soil anomalies around metalliferous ore bodies. An understanding of the mechanisms by which soil geochemical anomalies form is extremely relevant to exploration for buried ore deposits. This research could also tell us a lot about the ecological response in areas where there is a concentration of elements, whether it is of natural or anthropogenic origin. This research is important in that it will also provide one of the first hard numbers for some trace element fluxes in Australian terrestrial ecosystems.