Even without knowing exactly how an ecosystem functions with a homogenized microorganism population, Rodrigues said another reason to be concerned about losing diversity is the loss of material with possible value for medicine.
"Lots of antibiotics are made by bacteria," Rodrigues said. "We might be losing a lot of potential antibiotics, or biotechnological advances later on."
A diversity of bacteria and other microorganisms helps land respond to stress according to Rodrigues. Decreasing the types of microscopic life in Amazonian soil may decrease the land's ability to adapt to change he said.
The next question Rodrigues and the research team are asking is, does microbial diversity rebound if a pasture becomes forest again? He wants to know if the deforested Amazon pasture is left to grow trees again, whether the missing microorganisms will re-colonize the soil.
"We still have time for that, for the secondary forest come back," he said.