Main content area

Amazonian deforestation and soil biodiversity

Franco, André L.C., Sobral, Bruno W., Silva, Artur L.C., Wall, Diana H.
Conservation biology 2019 v.33 no.3 pp. 590-600
Nematoda, Protozoa, acid soils, arable soils, atmospheric precipitation, biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, biomass, cropping systems, data collection, deforestation, dry season, ecosystem services, ecosystems, issues and policy, land use change, logging, meta-analysis, microbial communities, microorganisms, pH, pastures, primary forests, public lands, soil ecology, soil fauna, wildfires, Amazonia
Clearance and perturbation of Amazonian forests are one of the greatest threats to tropical biodiversity conservation of our times. A better understanding of how soil communities respond to Amazonian deforestation is crucially needed to inform policy interventions that effectively protect biodiversity and the essential ecosystem services it provides. We assessed the impact of deforestation and ecosystem conversion to arable land on Amazonian soil biodiversity through a meta‐analysis. We analyzed 274 pairwise comparisons of soil biodiversity in Amazonian primary forests and sites under different stages of deforestation and land‐use conversion: disturbed (wildfire and selective logging) and slash‐and‐burnt forests, pastures, and cropping systems. Overall, 60% and 51% of responses of soil macrofauna and microbial community attributes (i.e., abundance, biomass, richness, and diversity indexes) to deforestation were negative, respectively. We found few studies on mesofauna (e.g., microarthropods) and microfauna (e.g., protozoa and nematodes), so those groups could not be analyzed. Macrofauna abundance and biomass were more vulnerable to the displacement of forests by pastures than by agricultural fields, whereas microbes showed the opposite pattern. Effects of Amazonian deforestation on macrofauna were more detrimental at sites with mean annual precipitation >1900 mm, and higher losses of microbes occurred in highly acidic soils (pH < 4.5). Limited geographic coverage, omission of meso‐ and microfauna, and low taxonomic resolution were main factors impairing generalizations from the data set. Few studies assessed the impacts of within‐forest disturbance (wildfires and selective logging) on soil species in Amazonia, where logging operations rapidly expand across public lands and more frequent severe dry seasons are increasing the prevalence of wildfires.