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.