Biologist and first author Jorge Rodrigues of the University of Texas at Arlington adds, "We have known for a long time that conversion of rainforest land in the Amazon for agriculture results in a loss of biodiversity in plants and animals. Now we know that microbial communities which are so important to the ecosystem also suffer significant losses."
As Nsslein and colleagues point out, the Amazon represents half of the world's rainforest and is home to one-third of Earth's species, yet the Amazon has one of the highest rates of deforestation. Agriculture is one of the largest and most dynamic parts of Brazil's economy, so dealing with standing rainforests in the tropics will be tricky, but nevertheless, it is vital that the issue is tackled."
Rodrigues says he and colleagues are currently compiling findings about the potential for recovery of the microbial diversity after pastureland is abandoned and returned to "secondary forest." At the same time, Nsslein and colleagues are leading an effort to investigate how the redundancy of functions provided by soil microbes provides resilience to the effects of agricultural land use change to support a stressed ecosystem to recover stability.
"Whether bacterial diversity will completely recover from ecosystem conversion will depend in part on whether the taxa lost due to conversion are truly locally extinct or whether they are present in the pasture sites but of such low abundance that they are undetectable in our study," the authors write.
|Contact: Klaus Nusslein|
University of Massachusetts at Amherst