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Research article2010Peer reviewed

Impact of microarthropod biomass on the composition of the soil fauna community and ecosystem processes

Taylor, Astrid; Pflug, Anne; Schröter, Dagmar; Wolters, Volkmar


The effect of soil organisms on ecosystem processes strongly depends on the composition of the overall community. Community composition however undergoes constant shifts due to pronounced spatio-temporal patterns in biomass and abundance of individual fauna groups. On this background the present experiment aimed to assess the potential impacts of shifts in the biomass of a dominant soil fauna group (microarthropods) on total community composition and on ecosystem processes mediated by fauna or microbes (e.g. decomposition, nitrogen mineralization).Microcosms, filled with spruce litter, hosted soil fauna communities that either contained ambient microarthropod biomass (control) or two elevated levels of microarthropod biomass (1.5 and 2 fold increase), while initial microbial biomass and that of other faunal groups remained unaltered. After an incubation period of 2 months, the biomass of microorganisms and fauna groups as well as ecosystem process variables were determined.The increase in microarthropod biomass at the investigated levels induced changes in the faunal community; mainly via negative or positive feeding interactions between microarthropods and the affected animal groups (Enchytraeidae, Nematoda). The abundance and activity of microorganisms at lower trophic levels however remained unaffected by these alterations; buffering the effect of shifts in the community structure on ecosystem processes. (C) 2009 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.


Microarthropods; Nematodes; Enchytraeids; Microbial biomass; Microcosm; Trophic level; Interactions; Nitrogen mineralization; Carbon mineralization; Litter mass loss; Spruce litter

Published in

European Journal of Soil Biology
2010, Volume: 46, number: 2, pages: 80-86

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Soil Science

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