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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Determinants of small-scale spatial patterns: Importance of space, plants and abiotics for soil nematodes

Viketoft, Maria


Belowground communities support a great diversity of organisms, but the factors that maintain and regulate this diversity are poorly understood. Both abiotic and biotic factors affect the abundance, diversity and distribution of soil organisms, and the spatial heterogeneity in these factors is a key in explaining belowground biodiversity. However, a combined approach estimating the relative importance of spatial and environmental factors in small-scale structuring of soil communities is yet missing. Here, a semi-natural grassland in south-central Sweden with high diversity of plants was sampled at two spatial scales (10 and 60 cm intervals) with the aim to examine the relative roles of plant identity, abiotic environmental factors and spatial factors for the small-scale spatial patterns of nematodes. The data were analysed by variance partitioning with redundancy analysis. Space, vegetation and abiotics were of similar importance for variation in nematode community composition. However, the contribution of the different sets of variables differed between the different nematode feeding groups: plant-feeding nematodes were influenced more by spatial variables, fungal-feeding nematodes and omnivores/predators more by plants and bacterial-feeding nematodes more by abiotic variables. The ranges of spatial dependence for the different feeding groups were all of the same magnitude, around 1 m. The results add to the understanding of the factors that contribute to soil biodiversity, and they show that combining plant and abiotic variables into one set of environmental variables hide important information about the drivers for belowground community assembly. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Geostatistics; Grassland; Microfauna; Nematode feeding groups; Spatial distribution; Variance partitioning

Published in

Soil Biology and Biochemistry
2013, Volume: 62, pages: 92-98

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