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Chapter 38 : What Is the Evidence for the Loss of Microbial Diversity?
This chapter examines the effects of anthropogenic activities on microbial species richness and diversity. This is a challenging area of study because current investigative methods do not allow accurate assessment of species composition and diversity. Although this limitation, among others, does not allow firm conclusions to be made, an examination of the literature showed that most reports identified a negative relationship between anthropogenic activities and microbial species richness and diversity. This chapter reviews these studies, discusses the importance of the findings, and describes some of the challenges for future investigations. Agricultural practices including deforestation, the use of herbicides, fish farming, sewage sludge amendments, and copper amendments have all been shown to lower microbial diversity. Several reports described anthropogenic activities that have increased microbial diversity. The chapter addresses the relationship between microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning.