New Biological Insights Into How Deforestation in Amazonia Affects Soil Microbial Communities Using Metagenomics and Metagenome-Assembled Genomes.
ABSTRACT: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon occurs at an alarming rate, which has broad effects on global greenhouse gas emissions, carbon storage, and biogeochemical cycles. In this study, soil metagenomes and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) were analyzed for alterations to microbial community composition, functional groups, and putative physiology as it related to land-use change and tropical soil. A total of 28 MAGs were assembled encompassing 10 phyla, including both dominant and rare biosphere lineages. Amazon Acidobacteria subdivision 3, Melainabacteria, Microgenomates, and Parcubacteria were found exclusively in pasture soil samples, while Candidatus Rokubacteria was predominant in the adjacent rainforest soil. These shifts in relative abundance between land-use types were supported by the different putative physiologies and life strategies employed by the taxa. This research provides unique biological insights into candidate phyla in tropical soil and how deforestation may impact the carbon cycle and affect climate change.
Project description:Biological nitrogen fixation can be an important source of nitrogen in tropical forests that serve as a major CO2 sink. Extensive deforestation of the Amazon is known to influence microbial communities and the biogeochemical cycles they mediate. However, it is unknown how diazotrophs (nitrogen-fixing microorganisms) respond to deforestation and subsequent ecosystem conversion to agriculture, as well as whether they can recover in secondary forests that are established after agriculture is abandoned. To address these knowledge gaps, we combined a spatially explicit sampling approach with high-throughput sequencing of nifH genes. The main objectives were to assess the functional distance decay relationship of the diazotrophic bacterial community in a tropical forest ecosystem and to quantify the roles of various factors that drive the observed changes in the diazotrophic community structure. We observed an increase in local diazotrophic diversity (?-diversity) with a decrease in community turnover (?-diversity), associated with a shift in diazotrophic community structure as a result of the forest-to-pasture conversion. Both diazotrophic community turnover and structure showed signs of recovery in secondary forests. Changes in the diazotrophic community were primarily driven by the change in land use rather than differences in geochemical characteristics or geographic distances. The diazotroph communities in secondary forests resembled those in primary forests, suggesting that at least partial recovery of diazotrophs is possible following agricultural abandonment.IMPORTANCE The Amazon region is a major tropical forest region that is being deforested at an alarming rate to create space for cattle ranching and agriculture. Diazotrophs (nitrogen-fixing microorganisms) play an important role in supplying soil N for plant growth in tropical forests. It is unknown how diazotrophs respond to deforestation and whether they can recover in secondary forests that establish after agriculture is abandoned. Using high-throughput sequencing of nifH genes, we characterized the response of diazotrophs' ?-diversity and identified major drivers of changes in diazotrophs from forest-to-pasture and pasture-to-secondary-forest conversions. Studying the impact of land use change on diazotrophs is important for a better understanding of the impact of deforestation on tropical forest ecosystem functioning, and our results on the potential recovery of diazotrophs in secondary forests imply the possible restoration of ecosystem functions in secondary forests.
Project description:The Amazon rainforest, the largest equatorial forest in the world, is being cleared for pasture and agricultural use at alarming rates. Tropical deforestation is known to cause alterations in microbial communities at taxonomic and phylogenetic levels, but it is unclear whether microbial functional groups are altered. We asked whether free-living nitrogen-fixing microorganisms (diazotrophs) respond to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, using analysis of the marker gene nifH. Clone libraries were generated from soil samples collected from a primary forest, a 5-year-old pasture originally converted from primary forest, and a secondary forest established after pasture abandonment. Although diazotroph richness did not significantly change among the three plots, diazotroph community composition was altered with forest-to-pasture conversion, and phylogenetic similarity was higher among pasture communities than among those in forests. There was also 10-fold increase in nifH gene abundance following conversion from primary forest to pasture. Three environmental factors were associated with the observed changes: soil acidity, total N concentration, and C/N ratio. Our results suggest a partial restoration to initial levels of abundance and community structure of diazotrophs following pasture abandonment, with primary and secondary forests sharing similar communities. We postulate that the response of diazotrophs to land use change is a direct consequence of changes in plant communities, particularly the higher N demand of pasture plant communities for supporting aboveground plant growth.
Project description:Accurately quantifying changes in soil carbon (C) stocks with land-use change is important for estimating the anthropogenic fluxes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and for implementing policies such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) that provide financial incentives to reduce carbon dioxide fluxes from deforestation and land degradation. Despite hundreds of field studies and at least a dozen literature reviews, there is still considerable disagreement on the direction and magnitude of changes in soil C stocks with land-use change. We conducted a meta-analysis of studies that quantified changes in soil C stocks with land use in the tropics. Conversion from one land use to another caused significant increases or decreases in soil C stocks for 8 of the 14 transitions examined. For the three land-use transitions with sufficient observations, both the direction and magnitude of the change in soil C pools depended strongly on biophysical factors of mean annual precipitation and dominant soil clay mineralogy. When we compared the distribution of biophysical conditions of the field observations to the area-weighted distribution of those factors in the tropics as a whole or the tropical lands that have undergone conversion, we found that field observations are highly unrepresentative of most tropical landscapes. Because of this geographic bias we strongly caution against extrapolating average values of land-cover change effects on soil C stocks, such as those generated through meta-analysis and literature reviews, to regions that differ in biophysical conditions.
Project description:From 2006 to 2010, deforestation in the Amazon frontier state of Mato Grosso decreased to 30% of its historical average (1996-2005) whereas agricultural production reached an all-time high. This study combines satellite data with government deforestation and production statistics to assess land-use transitions and potential market and policy drivers associated with these trends. In the forested region of the state, increased soy production from 2001 to 2005 was entirely due to cropland expansion into previously cleared pasture areas (74%) or forests (26%). From 2006 to 2010, 78% of production increases were due to expansion (22% to yield increases), with 91% on previously cleared land. Cropland expansion fell from 10 to 2% of deforestation between the two periods, with pasture expansion accounting for most remaining deforestation. Declining deforestation coincided with a collapse of commodity markets and implementation of policy measures to reduce deforestation. Soybean profitability has since increased to pre-2006 levels whereas deforestation continued to decline, suggesting that antideforestation measures may have influenced the agricultural sector. We found little evidence of direct leakage of soy expansion into cerrado in Mato Grosso during the late 2000s, although indirect land-use changes and leakage to more distant regions are possible. This study provides evidence that reduced deforestation and increased agricultural production can occur simultaneously in tropical forest frontiers, provided that land is available and policies promote the efficient use of already-cleared lands (intensification) while restricting deforestation. It remains uncertain whether government- and industry-led policies can contain deforestation if future market conditions favor another boom in agricultural expansion.
Project description:Understanding the interactions among microbial communities, plant communities and soil properties following deforestation could provide insights into the long-term effects of land-use change on ecosystem functions, and may help identify approaches that promote the recovery of degraded sites. We combined high-throughput sequencing of fungal rDNA and molecular barcoding of plant roots to estimate fungal and plant community composition in soil sampled across a chronosequence of deforestation. We found significant effects of land-use change on fungal community composition, which was more closely correlated to plant community composition than to changes in soil properties or geographic distance, providing evidence for strong links between above- and below-ground communities in tropical forests.
Project description:Protected areas (PAs) now shelter 54% of the remaining forests of the Brazilian Amazon and contain 56% of its forest carbon. However, the role of these PAs in reducing carbon fluxes to the atmosphere from deforestation and their associated costs are still uncertain. To fill this gap, we analyzed the effect of each of 595 Brazilian Amazon PAs on deforestation using a metric that accounts for differences in probability of deforestation in areas of pairwise comparison. We found that the three major categories of PA (indigenous land, strictly protected, and sustainable use) showed an inhibitory effect, on average, between 1997 and 2008. Of 206 PAs created after the year 1999, 115 showed increased effectiveness after their designation as protected. The recent expansion of PAs in the Brazilian Amazon was responsible for 37% of the region's total reduction in deforestation between 2004 and 2006 without provoking leakage. All PAs, if fully implemented, have the potential to avoid 8.0 +/- 2.8 Pg of carbon emissions by 2050. Effectively implementing PAs in zones under high current or future anthropogenic threat offers high payoffs for reducing carbon emissions, and as a result should receive special attention in planning investments for regional conservation. Nevertheless, this strategy demands prompt and predictable resource streams. The Amazon PA network represents a cost of US$147 +/- 53 billion (net present value) for Brazil in terms of forgone profits and investments needed for their consolidation. These costs could be partially compensated by an international climate accord that includes economic incentives for tropical countries that reduce their carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Project description:Since 1984, nearly 1,000 people have been killed in the Brazilian Amazon due to land conflicts stemming from unequal distribution of land, land tenure insecurity, and lawlessness. During this same period, the region experienced almost complete deforestation (< 8% forest cover by 2010). Land conflict exacts a human toll, but it also affects agents' decisions about land use, the subject of this article. Using a property-level panel dataset covering the period of redemocratization in Brazil (1984) until the privatization of long-term leases in the Eastern Amazon (2010), we show that deforestation is affected by land conflict, particularly in cases of expropriation of property for agrarian reform settlement formation and when that conflict involves fatalities. Deforestation on agrarian reform settlements is much greater when soils are poor for agriculture and when the land has been the object of past conflict. Deforestation and conflict are episodic, and both agronomic drivers and contentious drivers of land change are active in the region. Ultimately, the outcome of these processes of contentious and agronomic land change is substantial deforestation, regardless of who was in possession and control of the land.
Project description:Mining poses significant and potentially underestimated risks to tropical forests worldwide. In Brazil's Amazon, mining drives deforestation far beyond operational lease boundaries, yet the full extent of these impacts is unknown and thus neglected in environmental licensing. Here we quantify mining-induced deforestation and investigate the aspects of mining operations, which most likely contribute. We find mining significantly increased Amazon forest loss up to 70?km beyond mining lease boundaries, causing 11,670?km2 of deforestation between 2005 and 2015. This extent represents 9% of all Amazon forest loss during this time and 12 times more deforestation than occurred within mining leases alone. Pathways leading to such impacts include mining infrastructure establishment, urban expansion to support a growing workforce, and development of mineral commodity supply chains. Mining-induced deforestation is not unique to Brazil; to mitigate adverse impacts of mining and conserve tropical forests globally, environmental assessments and licensing must considered both on- and off-lease sources of deforestation.
Project description:Tropical rainforest regions have large hydropower generation potential that figures prominently in many nations' energy growth strategies. Feasibility studies of hydropower plants typically ignore the effect of future deforestation or assume that deforestation will have a positive effect on river discharge and energy generation resulting from declines in evapotranspiration (ET) associated with forest conversion. Forest loss can also reduce river discharge, however, by inhibiting rainfall. We used land use, hydrological, and climate models to examine the local "direct" effects (through changes in ET within the watershed) and the potential regional "indirect" effects (through changes in rainfall) of deforestation on river discharge and energy generation potential for the Belo Monte energy complex, one of the world's largest hydropower plants that is currently under construction on the Xingu River in the eastern Amazon. In the absence of indirect effects of deforestation, simulated deforestation of 20% and 40% within the Xingu River basin increased discharge by 4-8% and 10-12%, with similar increases in energy generation. When indirect effects were considered, deforestation of the Amazon region inhibited rainfall within the Xingu Basin, counterbalancing declines in ET and decreasing discharge by 6-36%. Under business-as-usual projections of forest loss for 2050 (40%), simulated power generation declined to only 25% of maximum plant output and 60% of the industry's own projections. Like other energy sources, hydropower plants present large social and environmental costs. Their reliability as energy sources, however, must take into account their dependence on forests.
Project description:Impact of changes in land cover and land use on hydrological service of tropical watersheds is one of the focal research tropics in both hydrology and Land Cover Land Use Changes (LCLUC). Land fragmentation is an important feature of LCLUC, however, its impact on hydrological service of tropical watershed is unclear despite a few theoretical frameworks. In this paper, we described a simulation study of eight tropical watersheds in Puerto Rico using the Soil Water Assessment Tool. Annual average stream discharge was derived according to the simulations with the land cover maps in 1977, 1991, and 2000. Annual big stream discharge with risks of flooding and severe soil erosion was computed as the sum of daily discharge greater than 95th percentile. The impacts of changes in land cover and fragmentation represented by perimeter-to-area ratio of land patches on annual average and big discharges were further analyzed by means of the linear mixed-effects model. Most mountainous watersheds were characterized by reforestation in 1977-1991 but slight deforestation in 1991-2000. Forest perimeter-to-area ratio was significantly correlated with covers of forest (correlation coefficient of -0.97), pasture (0.94), and urban (0.95). Thus forest fragmentation was reduced by reforestation but increased by deforestation. The annual average and big discharges were significantly reduced by forest cover and forest perimeter-to-area ratio. The enhanced edge effect by forest fragmentation may have incurred more effective interception of the subsurface flow by forest root system, and promoted forest transpiration, thus reduced stream flows. Land cover change plays more important roles in regulating the big discharges than altering the annual average discharges. Due to the negative correlation between forest cover and fragmentation, the decreased forest fragmentation accompanied with reforestation offsets the impact of reforestation on lessening freshwater supply and flooding risk.