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Deforestation impacts soil biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide

New publication by Qu X, Li X, Bardgett RD, Kuzyakov Y, Revillini D, Sonne C et al.


Deforestation poses a global threat to biodiversity and its capacity to deliver ecosystem services. Yet, the impacts of deforestation on soil biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services remain virtually unknown. We generated a global dataset including 696 paired-site observations to investigate how native forest conversion to other land uses affects soil properties, biodiversity, and functions associated with the delivery of multiple ecosystem services. The conversion of native forests to plantations, grasslands, and croplands resulted in higher bacterial diversity and more homogeneous fungal communities dominated by pathogens and with a lower abundance of symbionts. Such conversions also resulted in significant reductions in carbon storage, nutrient cycling, and soil functional rates related to organic matter decomposition. Responses of the microbial community to deforestation, including bacterial and fungal diversity and fungal guilds, were predominantly regulated by changes in soil pH and total phosphorus. Moreover, we found that soil fungal diversity and functioning in warmer and wetter native forests is especially vulnerable to deforestation. Our work highlights that the loss of native forests to managed ecosystems poses a major global threat to the biodiversity and functioning of soils and their capacity to deliver ecosystem services.