Research from an international team of microbiologists has revealed a new concern about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest a troubling net loss in the diversity among the microbial organisms responsible for a functioning ecosystem.
The group, which includes professors from The University of Texas at Arlington, University of Oregon, University of Massachusetts, Michigan State University and University of Sao Paulo, sampled a 100 square kilometer area, about 38 square miles, in the Fazenda Nova Vida site in Rondnia, Brazil, a location where rainforest has been converted to agricultural use. Their findings in part validated previous research showing that bacteria in the soil became more diverse over the years, as it was converted to pasture.
But their findings contradicted prior thinking by showing that the loss of restricted ranges for different kinds of bacteria communities resulted in a biotic homogenization and net loss of diversity overall. Scientists worry that the loss of genetic variation in bacteria across a converted forest could reduce ecosystem resilience.
"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," said Jorge Rodrigues, the University of Texas at Arlington assistant biology professor who was part of the research team and is first author on a recent publication of the findings.
The new research is described in a paper appearing online the week of Dec. 24-28 in advance of publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper is called "Conversion of the Amazon rainforest to agriculture results in biotic homogenization of soil bacterial communities."
Klaus Nsslein, project director for the published research and associate professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusett
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University of Texas at Arlington