The Amazon rainforest is the largest terrestrial reservoir or “sink” for carbon dioxide, a gas that has been linked to climate change. Through photosynthesis, the Amazon absorbs 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year in a process that requires input of nitrogen. That nitrogen, for the most part, comes from a process called nitrogen fixation – essentially microbes pulling nitrogen form the air into the soil.
Rodrigues’ team gathered samples of soil from the Fazenda Nova Vida site in Rondonia, Brazil, one of three states in the country that accounted for more than 85 percent of deforestation from 1996 to 2005. They analyzed soil from a primary forest, a pasture established in 2004 and a secondary forest that resulted from the abandonment of a pasture in 1999.
The team used DNA analysis, specifically the nifH gene that is characteristic of diazotrophs, to measure the communities in the samples.
Rodrigues said researchers were surprised to find a ten-fold increase in the number of diazotrophic microorganisms in the pasture established in 2004, when compared to the primary forests. They theorize the pasture ecosystems rely on the diazotrophs more for nitrogen because of the continuous grazing from cattle, requiring constant regrowth of grasses.
“We observed a complete shift in the diazotrophic microbial community composition in response to the Amazon rain forest conversion to a pasture,” Mirza said. “These differences an be attributed to the shift in the above ground plant community because we did see partial recovery of diazotroph community composition in the secondary forest, which have more plant species as compared to pasture.”
Mirza said researchers are continuing their work with more more sophisticated sequencing technologies and in-depth sampling.
Other co-authors on the new paper include Chotima Potisap, a visiting Ph.D. student from Khon Kaen University in Thailand; Klaus Nüsslein, professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts; and Brendan J.M. Bohannan, professor at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon.
The paper is titled “Response of Free-Living Nitrogen Fixing Microorganisms to Land Use Change in the Amazon Rainforest” and is available online here: http://aem.asm.org/content/early/2013/10/21/AEM.02362-13.full.pdf+html.
Despite worries about the effect these changes to the microbial communities may have on the carbon cycle, Rodrigues said there are some encouraging results. After pastures were abandoned and a secondary forest grew, partial restoration of the original diazotrophic communities was achieved, researchers said.
Growth of secondary forest is ongoing for about 50 percent of the abandoned pastures in the Amazon, but more needs to be done to encourage secondary forests and limit deforestation in the first place, Rodrigues said.
“There is still time to recover if we act now,” he said.
An Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture supported the work detailed in the paper.
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,300 students and 2,300 faculty members in the epicenter of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. Total research expenditures reached almost $78 million last year.
Traci Peterson | EurekAlert!
Using sphere packing models to explain the structure of forests
26.11.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ
Taking a molecular approach to conserving freshwater biodiversity
09.11.2015 | Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
26.11.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
26.11.2015 | Materials Sciences
26.11.2015 | Earth Sciences