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article imageBiodiversity loss can lead to toxin build up in soil

By Tim Sandle     Jan 21, 2014 in Environment
A new study suggests that a moderate loss of less than 5 percent of soil microbes may compromise some key ecosystem functions and could lead to lower degradation of toxins in the environment.
The study has charted a loss of microbial diversity in the many soils around the world. The implication of this reduction in biodiversity is the ability of the ecosystem to remove toxins from the environment. Consequently this leads to higher toxicity risks and a potential risk to human health.
Toxins build up in the soil through the use of agricultural chemicals. Many of these chemicals remain at high levels in surface and underground water. To demonstrate this, researchers correlated microbial diversity against the build-up of heavy metal pollution, focusing on the metals cadmium, zinc, and copper, and a strong relationship between the two variables.
The reasons for, and extent of, the decline in microbial diversity in agricultural soils are complex. It could be the conundrum that over-use of agricultural chemicals reduces microbial diversity; and a reduced microbial diversity reduces the rate that agricultural chemicals are broken down.
The findings have been published in the journal Environmental Microbiology. The research paper is titled “Loss of microbial diversity in soils is coincident with reductions in some specialized functions.”
More about Biodiversity, Toxins, Soil, Agriculture, Contamination
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