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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Integrating dimensions of microbial biodiversity across wetlands and land use types to understand methane greenhouse gas cycling in tropical forests

PI: Jose Mauro Moura (, Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará
U.S. Partner: Jorge Rodrigues, University of California, Davis
Project Dates: December 2016 - November 2019

Project Overview:

Deforestation is among the most important alterations occurring in tropical systems and is responsible for unprecedented losses of plant and animal biodiversity. However, little is known about the impact of land use change and seasonal inundation of wetlands on microbial biodiversity, especially in the tropics. In previous research, Dr. Moura and his colleagues discovered that soil microbial biodiversity in Amazon rainforest soil is homogenized and reduced by forest-to-agriculture conversion. However, it remains unknown how such changes in microbial biodiversity affect ecosystem functions. This challenge is paralleled by our need to understand, and ultimately manage, the problem of global
5-589 Moura
 Project PI Jose Moura with his students (Photo courtesy of J. Moura)
climate change. This project addresses the intersection of these two questions in the context of biodiversity conservation by asking: “how does the interaction between soil microbial and forest tree biodiversity control cycling of the powerful greenhouse gas methane along gradients of land use and seasonal water inundation in Amazon forests?” To predict the future of methane as a driver of climate change in this system, the researchers will combine novel gas flux measurement instrumentation with cutting-edge molecular microbial ecology. They will address biodiversity and environmental controls on methane production from tropical regions by measuring methane fluxes from a variety of potential sources, including surfaces of tree stems and leaves, soil, and water in forested and deforested areas, as well as upland and wetland areas. Detailed inventories of biodiversity of methane-active vegetation and microbial communities will be performed in the Santarem region of Brazil.

The goals of the project are to advance biodiversity conservation science in Amazônia by (1) quantifying methane-cycling microbial diversity as a function of land use and seasonal inundation, (2) quantifying interactions between methane-cycling microbes and methane cycling, and (3) incorporating knowledge of interactions between methane-cycling microbes and plants into conservation and management plans for mitigating the climate impact of methane emissions. Collaborators from the United States will work with the Brazilian team to analyze and integrate results and ultimately create a model to predict the response of methane cycling to land-use change. This model will not only be useful to a wide community of researchers but will also inform stakeholders and local policy administrators on protecting local biodiversity. The project’s focus on microbial biodiversity as a driver of methane cycling through the twin lenses of land use change and tropical wetlands (the largest natural sources of microbially produced methane to the atmosphere in the world) links development-associated anthropogenic land use change to both biodiversity conservation and climate change feedback. The project will thus bring new knowledge from a novel field (conservation biology for microbes) to our understanding of the impacts of development. Results from this project will provide a basis to inform policy development to simultaneously address problems of biodiversity conservation and management of key economic resource for riverine communities.

Summary of Recent Activities

During October 10-12, 2016, PI Jose Moura attended the PEER financial training workshop in Rio de Janeiro, which gave him the opportunity to make contact with several research foundations based in Brazil that already manage PEER grants. This helped him select the institution best suited to his project needs. Meanwhile, once his own PEER grant became active, Dr. Moura worked with another PEER PI, Dr. Bruno Rosado of the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) to co-present a field course on Functional Ecology to 16 students at the Federal University of Western of Pará (UFOPA). The course helped Dr. Moura to select students who will be involved in his PEER project over the coming three years. At least four students who attended this course are already helping his team develop strategies for measurement initiation. Since the project began, discussions were also conducted with the U.S. and Brazilian teams working on the joint NSF-supported project “Dimensions U.S.-BIOTA-Sao Paulo: Collaborative Research: Integrating Dimensions of Microbial Biodiversity across Land Use Change in Tropical Forests.” Dr. Moura also convened an initial organizational meeting regarding his PEER project at UFOPA in January 2017.

During the first half of 2017, the project team will be conducting regular meetings and calls. The PI will update the data management plan, identify any potential data collection challenges, and implement the necessary changes. He has already hired one technician, Daniel Alves Jati, who will help build and calibrate the flux measurement chambers, supervise the use of various instruments in the field, maintain the weather stations, and download data from them during the first year of the project. Daniel is a recent Master’s graduate of UFOPA, and his expertise with the use of computer models to determine river discharges will also help the team better understand the effects of water level fluctuations at their floodplain sites on methane emissions. Recruitment and training of other Brazilian students will also continue. As of January 2017, Dr. Moura was working to purchase a gas analyzer and other equipment needed for the project and set up weather stations. Field sites will be selected and the vegetation inventory will begin. After methods for microbial community analysis (functional genes) are established, the team will measure methane gas emissions using a gas chromatograph and laser spectrometer. The researchers will also produce and install a tree stem methane chamber.

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