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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 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

This team’s April 2018 field campaign focused on taking measurements of methane fluxes in their pasture and primary forest sites, while the fieldwork in late May and late June was devoted to taking monthly measurements of the forest biomass increment, litter production, litter decomposition and soil moisture at the terrafirme plots. Litter production and litter decomposition were also taken in the varzea plots. In addition, the team continued collecting botanical material to add to their species inventory, as well as data from the micrometeorological stations.

5-589 Water Lesson5-589 Drone Lesson
Students in the Arapixuna District take part in a science-art workshop and learned about ecological concepts.

From April 22 through 26, the team worked with Dr. Sarah Rosengard of the University of British Columbia to teach a science-art course for students in the District of Arapixuna. This project was a joint effort with other researchers from the WHRC (Dr. Max Homes), WHOI (Dr. Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink), and Florida State University (Dr. Rob Spencer), with funding provided by the ASLO Global Outreach Initiative. The researchers divided into two groups, one focused on leading the course and the other on taking measurements, setting up monitoring systems, and conducting community outreach. The first group conducted the science-art project activities with children, teaching them some ecological concepts, visiting and exploring some local ecosystems, and then inviting the children to create drawings or paintings expressing their perceptions of their reality and nature in their surroundings. Meanwhile, the second team collected data such on monthly vegetation increment, litter production, and soils. They also installed a micrometeorological station at the school to take information such as the rainfall, wind direction, relative humidity and air temperature. They began installing dendrometric bands at a nearby terrafirme plot, collected botanical materials to identify the tree species found, and measured greenhouse gas emissions. On April 27, all team members conducted a workshop at the school to demonstrate various aspects of the project to the community. The researchers described current activities and future plans, along with the rationale behind their efforts. At this event, the children's artwork was also exhibited to the people visiting the school. The audience voted on their favorites, with the top 10 receiving prizes. The next step is to print some of the student artwork on greeting cards and distribute them to show people some Amazon ecosystems through the easels of Arapixuna's youth (see

At last report, the team was planning its next field campaign for July 26-30 to continue their measurements at the Flona Tapajos, Pasture, and Arapixuna sites (wetland areas). They intend to install an Eddy Covariance System at their wetland forest site. So far they have built all the systems (sensors, data loggers, etc.) and are finalizing building the 12m metal tower. The researchers will also extend their gas flux measurements for other upland sites such as secondary forests, Palmae forest, and an agricultural field located on an anthropogenic enriched dark soil (termed Amazonian Dark Earths - ADE or terra preta de índio). August 20-25, 2018, UFOPA will hold the VII Jornada Acadêmica Ufopa, during which some of the team members will present the work they have done as part of this PEER project (see

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