January 4, 2013

Scientists Find Trouble In The Tropics

On December 25, 2012, redOrbit reporter April Flowers wrote about the effects of deforestation. Her report specifically focuses on the micro effects although it also touches on the macro ones. Specifically, the story talks about the loss of diversity among the microbial organisms—like bacterial communities—responsible for a functioning ecosystem.

In a scientific study performed by an international team of microbiologists from the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Oregon, Michigan State University, and the University of Sao Paulo, they found that deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has resulted in a biotic homogenization and a loss of diversity overall. Based on this scientists concluded that the ecosystem is now less capable of dealing with additional outside stress. And all of this is a result of deforestation.

This study finds that microbes are impacted by human-driven changes in the environment. We have long known that deforestation affected the larger members of the ecosystem from predators to flora to herbivores. However, this study shows the serious effect deforestation has on the micro level, too. This means that deforestation has seriously bad effects on all living levels. We must think about this, and act.

When deforestation takes place, so much hurts the ecosystem. What many do not realize is that deforestation does not just hurt that specific ecosystem, but it can also impact the global ecosystem. For starters, deforestation means that trees and other flora are dying. Without trees we would have as much oxygen, and we would have too much carbon in the atmosphere. Trees take in carbon and then through their processes release oxygen. Both the intake of carbon and the outtake of oxygen are necessary for all life on earth.

Trees are not the only flora that are important, though. Flowers and bushes and other plants play their role not only in the carbon and oxygen game, but also in the pollination world. Without the smaller flora, like flowers and bushes, bugs cannot pollinate and continue the life cycle of these plants. Species of plants go extinct. Bees cannot gather pollen thus they cannot make honey. And those are just a few reasons deforestation is bad for flora.

Deforestation also means that animals are going to find new places to live. All animals, including predators, will have to find new territory. That could mean territory where humans live, too. Predators are a necessary component to any ecosystem as part of the circle of life. Without enough predatory animals, too many omnivores and herbivores will take over, including varmints and unwanted animals.

Deforestation takes away the habitats for both predator and prey, which means both move into new habitats.

Now, we also know that deforestation affects the microbes, too. According to one of the scientists involved in this research, …”microbes are responsible for critical environmental processes, such as the recycling of nutrients, the production of clean water and the removal of pollutants.” All three of those seem necessary and beneficial, so why wouldn’t we want to protect those?

Deforestation is a touchy subject, and a tad bit complicated. But both of those mean that it is important to discuss and address. Our very lives depend on it—all of our lives.

Image Credit: Dr. Morley Read / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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