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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Relative importance of tree species richness, tree functional type, and microenvironment for soil macrofauna communities in European forests

Ganault, Pierre; Nahmani, Johanne; Hattenschwiler, Stephan; Gillespie, Lauren Michelle; David, Jean-Francois; Henneron, Ludovic; Iorio, Etienne; Mazzia, Christophe; Muys, Bart; Pasquet, Alain; Prada-Salcedo, Luis Daniel; Wambsganss, Janna; Decaens, Thibaud


Soil fauna communities are major drivers of many forest ecosystem processes. Tree species diversity and composition shape soil fauna communities, but their relationships are poorly understood, notably whether or not soil fauna diversity depends on tree species diversity. Here, we characterized soil macrofauna communities from forests composed of either one or three tree species, located in four different climate zones and growing on different soil types. Using multivariate analysis and model averaging we investigated the relative importance of tree species richness, tree functional type (deciduous vs. evergreen), litter quality, microhabitat and microclimatic characteristics as drivers of soil macrofauna community composition and structure. We found that macrofauna communities in mixed forest stands were represented by a higher number of broad taxonomic groups that were more diverse and more evenly represented. We also observed a switch from earthworm-dominated to predator-dominated communities with increasing evergreen proportion in forest stands, which we interpreted as a result of a lower litter quality and a higher forest floor mass. Finally, canopy openness was positively related to detritivore abundance and biomass, leading to higher predator species richness and diversity probably through trophic cascade effects. Interestingly, considering different levels of taxonomic resolution in the analyses highlighted different facets of macrofauna response to tree species richness, likely a result of both different ecological niche range and methodological constraints. Overall, our study supports the positive effects of tree species richness on macrofauna diversity and abundance through multiple changes in resource quality and availability, microhabitat, and microclimate modifications.


Community ecology; Forest ecosystems; Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning; Aboveground-belowground linkages

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2021, Volume: 196, number: 2, pages: 455-468 Publisher: SPRINGER

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