While scientist have known for years that deforestation in the Amazon is a huge threat to biodiversity, a new study has revealed that deforestation is also detrimental to the diversity of bacteria in the soil, too.
The study, which was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that converting forest into cattle pasture reduced the number of species of bacteria present at first. The number of species later increased, so that there were more in any soil sample than before the land was cleared, they also became more uniform over a wide area by eliminating endemic species and replacing them with bacteria found in pastures all over the Amazon.
The study was undertaken by an international group of scientists including Michigan State University professor James Tiedje, as well as researchers from the University of Massachusetts, University of Oregon, University of Texas at Arlington, and University of Sao Paolo.
Lead researcher Jorge Rordigues said, “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.”
This finding has caused concern among the scientists that the loss of genetic variation in bacteria across a converted forest could increase the pressure on the ecosystem.
“The combination of loss of forest species and the homogenization of pasture communities together signal that this ecosystem is now a lot less capable to deal with additional outside stress,” Klaus Nüsslein, project director said.
The study was conducted on a large scale. The team sampled a 100 square kilometer area, about 38 square miles, in the Fazenda Nova Vida site in Rondônia, Brazil, where rainforest has been converted