Nav: Home

Soil communities threatened by destruction, instability of Amazon forests

May 24, 2019

The clearing and subsequent instability of Amazonian forests are among the greatest threats to tropical biodiversity conservation today.

Although the devastating consequences of deforestation to plants and animal species living above the ground are well-documented, scientists and others need to better understand how soil communities respond to this deforestation to create interventions that protect biodiversity and the ecosystem. But that information has been lacking.

A team of researchers led by Colorado State University's André Franco, a research scientist in the Department of Biology, conducted a meta-analysis of nearly 300 studies of soil biodiversity in Amazonian forests and sites in various stages of deforestation and land-use.

The new study, "Amazonian deforestation and soil biodiversity," is published in the June issue of Conservation Biology and is co-authored by CSU Distinguished Professor Diana Wall, Bruno Sobral, professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology at CSU, and Artur Silva, professor at the Universidade Federal do Pará in Belém, Brazil.

Overall, the researchers found that the abundance, biomass, richness and diversity of soil fauna and microbes were all reduced following deforestation. Soil fauna or animals that were studied include earthworms, millipedes, dung beetles, nematodes, mites, spiders and scorpions.

Franco, who hails from Brazil, said that this is the first time that all of the available scientific data related to soil biodiversity in Amazonian forests has been synthesized.

The research team also found that the way the land is used after the forest is cleared matters to soil biodiversity. Species of invertebrates such as earthworms, ants and termites -- which are described as soil engineers -- were more vulnerable to the displacement of forests with pastures than by crops, while microbes showed the opposite pattern.

Franco said the highest biodiversity losses were found on the side of the Amazon with the highest mean annual precipitation and in areas where the soil was very acidic.

"That means these areas should be higher priorities for conservation efforts," he said.

Scientists also uncovered gaps in existing research.

"Very few studies looked at the impact of disturbances like wildfires and selective logging on these forests," Franco said. "Yet logging is an official management strategy in the Amazon forest."

In addition, the team found a lack of data from seven of the nine countries that the Amazon biome covers parts of, including Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Sobral noted that biodiversity is a hot topic and was elevated recently with the release of a report from the United Nations, which found that nature is declining globally at unprecedented rates. But most of the scientific knowledge in the world about biodiversity relates to birds and mammals, he said.

The team is continuing this research in the Amazon, working with farmers' associations and two research institutes in Brazil to collect and analyze soil samples with the goal of studying the consequences of this loss of biodiversity.

Zaid Abdo, a bioinformatics expert and associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, has joined the CSU-based research team.

Sobral said it's extremely important that the scientists work with local farmers and others who are impacted by the deforestation.

"We're very focused on making sure the research isn't disconnected from local communities' needs and aspirations," he said. "Our work is guided by what the farmers want to know and how scientific knowledge could shape their future sustainable development."

Colorado State University

Related Biodiversity Articles:

Biodiversity is 3-D
The species-area relationship (SAC) is a long-time considered pattern in ecology and is discussed in most of academic Ecology books.
Thought Antarctica's biodiversity was doing well? Think again
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are not in better environmental shape than the rest of the world.
Antarctica's biodiversity is under threat
A unique international study has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in much better ecological shape than the rest of the world.
Poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica
The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L.
Temperature drives biodiversity
Why is the diversity of animals and plants so unevenly distributed on our planet?
Biodiversity needs citizen scientists
Could birdwatching or monitoring tree blossoms in your community make a difference in global environmental research?
Biodiversity loss in forests will be pricey
A new global assessment of forests -- perhaps the largest terrestrial repositories of biodiversity -- suggests that, on average, a 10 percent loss in biodiversity leads to a 2 to 3 percent loss in the productivity, including biomass, that forests can offer.
Biodiversity falls below 'safe levels' globally
Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.
Unravelling the costs of rubber agriculture on biodiversity
A striking decline in ant biodiversity found on land converted to a rubber plantation in China.
Nitrogen is a neglected threat to biodiversity
Nitrogen pollution is a recognized threat to sensitive species and ecosystems.

Related Biodiversity Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...