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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.

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

Summary of Recent Activities

In December 2018, Dr. Moura and his team installed a meteorological station in Arapixuna to measure precipitation, air temperature, lightning strikes, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction, and radiation. From December through March 2019, they continued measuring CH4 fluxes at their Pasture, Primary Forest, and Buriti sites. They also took monthly measurements of the forest biomass increment, litter production, litter decomposition, and soil moisture at their Terra Firme secondary forest plots. Litter production and litter decomposition were also taken at the Várzea plots, and the team measured greenhouse gas emissions (CH4) at the Várzea and Secondary Forest plots in addition to measuring stomatal conductance and water potential in várzea forest species. In March, in addition to the ongoing field work described above, the researchers also measured the tree biomass increment of várzea forest plots and collected biomass from litter traps at the Arapixuna site. They also installed chambers for methane flux measurements at their Terra Preta, Capoeirão, Mata Ciliar, secondary forest II, Capoeira, and Soybean Plantation sites.

The team continues to face some difficulties at their sites near the Arapixuna community due to some of their equipment (litter traps, dendrometric bands, PVC collars, etc.) being damaged or stolen by local people who happened upon the sites. The researchers are still working to build their relationship with the community to explain their work and its importance, in order to eliminate the thefts and vandalism. In the second and third quarters of 2019, they will begin characterizing the community of methanotrophic and methanogenic bacteria present in Amazonian soils through molecular biology techniques. This part of the project will be carried out primarily by a new Master’s student on the team, Cássia A. M. Silva. Monthly measurements of biomass and gas exchange of surface and trees will also continue. A no-cost extension will likely be required beyond the current end date of November 30, 2019.

Link to project video on Facebook
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