An international team of microbiologists including Brendan Bohannan recently published the findings of their study on microbial biodiversity in the soil of the Amazon Rainforest in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Although previous studies had indicated that local microbial biodiversity increases when rainforest land is converted to farmland, Bohannan and his colleagues found that across wider areas, net microbial biodiversity actually decreases because communities become more homogenous as endemic soil bacteria (i.e. those with very specific niches) are lost. The unprecedented scale of the study (100 square kilometers) allowed the team to detect the homogenization of microbial communities.
“Our findings are especially important because they support the idea that microbes are impacted by human-caused environmental change,” says Bohannan. “Land-use change is part of the suite of human-caused environmental changes known as global change. Understanding how microbes respond to such changes is especially important because microbes are responsible for environmental processes that sustain all of life — the recycling of nutrients, the production of clean water, the removal of pollutants and more.”
Read the UO Communications article about Bohannan and his team’s research here.
Listen to a 90-second EarthSky podcast featuring Bohannan and his team’s research here.
Read the full PNAS article here.