Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Nutrient Deficiencies in Amazon Caused by Mass Extinctions

By Frontiergap @FrontierGap

It is not news to scientists that there is a lack of phosphorous in parts of the Amazon Rainforest, which is essential for mineral and plant growth. Now, a new study in Nature Geoscience posits a reason for this lack: the mass and rapid extinction of large mammals.

Nutrient deficiencies in Amazon caused by mass extinctions

Picture courtesy of Nils Rinaldi

The Amazon was once the home of the sloth, the rhino like creatures called toxodons, and the fantastically armoured glyptodons. By 10,000 B.C however, these mega fauna were largely extinct, possibly due to overhunting by man or climatic changes. It is now considered that the extinction of these animals has caused this nutrient deficiency, particularly the lack of nitrogen, in parts of the Amazon. Mammals are primary dispensers of nutrients, in their feces, urine and through their decomposition at death. Field research shows that larger mammals (such as elephants) not only give off larger quantities of these vital nutrients, but also spread them over larger distances.

So, it makes sense that the removal of South America’s largest mammals from the environment could still be impacting on the nutrients within the Amazon today. 70 percent of the animals that faced extinction were over 10 kilograms, therefore the Amazon lost its vessel by which to disperse nutrients far and wide, and this has played a large role in the history of Amazonia. Slash-and-burn farming  practices are now used due to the lack of necessary nutrients for long term crop production, for example.

A team of researchers from the UK and US developed a mathematical model in order to calculate the impact of this sudden loss of megafauna (animals with a body mass greater than 44kg). The results showed that the extinctions were responsible for a staggering 98 percent reduction in the dispersal of phosphorus. "Large animals play a disproportionately important role in this translocation of nutrients because they travel farther and have longer food passage times than smaller animals," say the researchers. Today, however, the majority of nutrient dispersal in the Amazon is through abiotic factors, which means the rivers and air. Therefore, nutrients become concentrated in just a few places, rather than spread far and wide.
Human impact on the health of the Amazon stretches further back than originally considered. "To the extent humans contributed to the megafaunal extinctions, this suggests that major human impacts on global biogeochemical cycles stretch back to well before the dawn of agriculture," the researchers write. However, megafauna extinctions did not end twelve thousand years ago. Great numbers of the worlds large mammals are in decline and some are even on the edge of extinction, which could bring another bout of nutrient deficiency in parts of Africa and Asia. 

By Camilla James

Find out more about animal conservation projects in The Americas

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Visiting Abbey Road, London

    Visiting Abbey Road, London

    21 total views, 21 views today Destination Abbey Road On a recent trip to London with Mr & Mrs Foodie, and old Father Foodie one of the main attractions I... Read more

    The 18 July 2018 by   Emma
  • The Adventure Podcast Episode 26: Turning Micro-Adventures into Macro-Adventures`

    Adventure Podcast Episode Turning Micro-Adventures into Macro-Adventures`

    It's Wednesday, which means only one thing –– a new episode of The Adventure Podcast. This week, we're exploring the idea of micro-adventures and how to turn... Read more

    The 18 July 2018 by   Kungfujedi
  • Recipe: Okra (ladies Finger) Top Or Okra Crown Chutney

    Recipe: Okra (ladies Finger) Crown Chutney

    While ‘trash cooking’ maybe a trend today, it is actually an age old practice that was meticulously followed during the yesteryears. Read more

    The 18 July 2018 by   Rashmi Gopal Rao
  • Recipe: Okra (ladies Finger) Top Or Okra Crown Chutney

    Recipe: Okra (ladies Finger) Crown Chutney

    While ‘trash cooking’ maybe a trend today, it is actually an age old practice that was meticulously followed during the yesteryears. Read more

    The 18 July 2018 by   Rashmi Gopal Rao
  • Fuck Yes


    Today, this blog is six years old. Today, I share some recent reflections on this radical journey.~~~ I said yes to marrying my boyfriend because I was afraid... Read more

    The 18 July 2018 by   Polysingleish
  • Yoga for Varicose Veins

    by RamHere on the YFHA blog there has been a number of discussions on varicose veins and the role of yoga in treating them. For example, see Baxter’s reply to... Read more

    The 18 July 2018 by   Ninazolotow
  • On the Occasion of the Centenary of the Anniversary of the Martyrdom of...

    Occasion Centenary Anniversary Martyrdom Elizaveta, Grand Duchess Russia

    Matthew 11.25-27There is no place for pride in our Christian faith.With God it does not matter if this world considers us ‘wise’.With God it does not matter if... Read more

    The 18 July 2018 by   Malcolmdrogers