Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Deforestation in Sandy Ecosystems Increases Release of CO2

Climate

Deforestation may have far greater consequences for climate change in some soils than in others, according to new research led by Yale University scientists—a finding that could provide critical insights into which ecosystems must be managed with extra care because they are vulnerable to biodiversity loss and which ecosystems are more resilient to widespread tree removal.

This heat map shows the areas of the United States where the soil microbial biomass is susceptible to changes in vegetation cover. Graphic courtesy of Yale University

In a comprehensive analysis of soil collected from 11 distinct U.S. regions, from Hawaii to northern Alaska, researchers found that the extent to which deforestation disturbs underground microbial communities that regulate the loss of carbon into the atmosphere depends almost exclusively on the texture of the soil. The results were published in the journal Global Change Biology.

“We were astonished that biodiversity changes were so strongly affected by soil texture and that it was such an overriding factor,” said Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study. “Texture overrode the effects of all the other variables that we thought might be important, including temperature, moisture, nutrient concentrations and soil pH.”

The study is a collaboration among Yale researchers and colleagues at the University of Boulder, Colorado and the University of Kentucky.

A serious consequence of deforestation is extensive loss of carbon from the soil, a process regulated by subterranean microbial diversity. Drastic changes to the microbial community are expected to allow more carbon dioxide (CO2) to escape into the atmosphere, with the potential to exaggerate global warming.

Specifically, the researchers found that deforestation dramatically alters microbial communities in sandy soils, but has minimal effects in muddy, clay-like soils, even after extensive tree removal.

According to the researchers, particles in fine, clay-like soil seem to have a larger surface area to bind nutrients and water. This capacity might buffer soil microbes against the disturbance of forest removal, they said. In contrast, sandy soils have larger particles with less surface area, retaining fewer nutrients and less organic matter.

“If you disrupt the community in a sandy soil, all of the nutrients the microbes rely on for food are leached away: they’re lost into the atmosphere, lost into rivers, lost through rain,” Crowther said. “But in clay-like soil, you can cut down the forest and the nutrients remain trapped tightly in the muddy clay.”

The researchers also examined how the effects of deforestation on microbial biodiversity change over time. Contrary to their expectations, they found no correlation, even over the course of 200 years.

“The effects are consistent, no matter how long ago deforestation happened,” Crowther said. “In a clay soil, you cut down the forest and the nutrients are retained for long periods of time and the community doesn’t change. Whereas in a sandy soil, you cut down a forest and the community changes dramatically within only a couple of years.”

Using previously documented information about soil distribution, the researchers were able to map potential areas where below ground ecosystems are more likely to be vulnerable to deforestation. This has the potential to inform land management practices concerned with the conservation of biodiversity and the sequestration of carbon in the soil.

Co-authors of the study, Predicting the Responsiveness of Soil Biodiversity to Deforestation: A Cross-Biome Study, include Daniel S. Maynard, Emily E. Oldfield, and Mark A. Bradford of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

--------

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

Earthworms Detoxify Pesticides From Soil at Significant Cost

5 Deforestation Hotspots Flying Under the Radar

Soil Microbes Alter DNA in Response to Climate Change 

--------

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less