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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

How anthropogenic shifts in plant community composition alter soil food webs.

Kardol, Paul; De Long, Jonathan R.


There are great concerns about the impacts of soil biodiversity loss on ecosystem functions and services such as nutrient cycling, food production, and carbon storage. A diverse community of soil organisms that together comprise a complex food web mediates such ecosystem functions and services. Recent advances have shed light on the key drivers of soil food web structure, but a conceptual integration is lacking. Here, we explore how human-induced changes in plant community composition influence soil food webs. We present a framework describing the mechanistic underpinnings of how shifts in plant litter and root traits and microclimatic variables impact on the diversity, structure, and function of the soil food web. We then illustrate our framework by discussing how shifts in plant communities resulting from land-use change, climatic change, and species invasions affect soil food web structure and functioning. We argue that unravelling the mechanistic links between plant community trait composition and soil food webs is essential to understanding the cascading effects of anthropogenic shifts in plant communities on ecosystem functions and services.


anthropogenic; soil; biodiversity

Published in

2018, volume: 7

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
De Long, Jonathan R.
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)