Neural Networks and Soil Fertility
Carrie Arnold is a freelance science writer in Virginia. She blogs about the science of eating disorders at and frequently covers microbiology topics for national magazines.
Conservationists like to think large. Whether it’s identifying hundreds of square miles of Himalayan highlands as a tiger corridor or creating massive marine preserves, these scientists are definitely thinking on the macro scale.
However a small but growing group of scientists are beginning to think smaller when it comes to conservation—much smaller. They have begun to study the microbes living in the soil, and their results are showing just how important microscopic life is in the macrobiotic world. A healthy, diverse population of soil microbes results in a healthy, diverse ecosystem. Changing an ecosystem also changes its microbes, scientists have found, and this may permanently scar the environment.
“Soil is not sterile, ” said Noah Fierer, a microbiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “These microbes are crucial to maintaining soil fertility.”
Deep in the rainforest at the Amazon Rainforest Microbial Observatory (ARMO), scientists from around the world are analyzing the effects of land use on the population of soil microbes. In effect, ARMO is actually located where the Amazonian rainforest used to be: like one-third of all the local land and a growing swath of rainforest, the area has been logged and is now pastureland. Ecologists have noted the loss of rare trees and flowers, and of the indigenous wildlife. But Jim Tiedje of Michigan State University and colleagues have been studying the loss of microbial life due to deforestation.
Source: The Crux
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