Conversion of the Amazon rainforest to agriculture results in biotic homogenization of soil bacterial communities

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 15;110(3):988-93. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1220608110. Epub 2012 Dec 27.


The Amazon rainforest is the Earth's largest reservoir of plant and animal diversity, and it has been subjected to especially high rates of land use change, primarily to cattle pasture. This conversion has had a strongly negative effect on biological diversity, reducing the number of plant and animal species and homogenizing communities. We report here that microbial biodiversity also responds strongly to conversion of the Amazon rainforest, but in a manner different from plants and animals. Local taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of soil bacteria increases after conversion, but communities become more similar across space. This homogenization is driven by the loss of forest soil bacteria with restricted ranges (endemics) and results in a net loss of diversity. This study shows homogenization of microbial communities in response to human activities. Given that soil microbes represent the majority of biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems and are intimately involved in ecosystem functions, we argue that microbial biodiversity loss should be taken into account when assessing the impact of land use change in tropical forests.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Brazil
  • Cattle
  • Ecosystem
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Rain
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Trees
  • Tropical Climate*