AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Soil nematode communities in grasslands

by Maria Viketoft

Institution: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Year: 2007
Keywords: nematoda; plants; species; biodiversity; plant soil relations; monoculture; plant animal relations; rotifera; Nematoda; plant diversity; plant-soil relations; plant monoculture; nematode feeding groups; nematode community structure; plant species identity; rotifers; tardigrades
Record ID: 1334003
Full text PDF: http://pub.epsilon.slu.se/1369/


This thesis summarizes the results of five studies investigating the effect of plant species on soil nematode communities in grasslands. Nematodes (roundworms) are ubiquitous members of the soil fauna and have been much used as indicators of soil conditions. Plants have the ability to affect soil organisms through structural modification of the soil habitat and through the quantity and quality of organic matter that is returned to soil, in the form of plant litter and root exudates. The influence of grassland plant species on the soil nematode fauna was investigated in an experimental grassland, a glasshouse experiment and in a semi-natural grassland. Monocultures of 12 grassland plant species belonging to three plant functional groups, viz. grasses, legumes and non-leguminous forbs, were investigated in the field experiment and a subset of these in the other two systems. Plant species effects were common, for example, plant feeding and bacterial feeding nematodes responded positively to legumes and grasses, while forbs enhanced fungal feeding nematodes. Plant species identity appeared to be much more important than plant functional group for the nematode fauna. The effects of plants were quite consistent between field and glasshouse experiments. The influence of plant species diversity and functional diversity on the nematode fauna was investigated in the experimental grassland. Plant species composition proved to be more important for soil nematode communities than any of the plant diversity measures, but the hypothesis that species or functional diversity of plants affect nematode diversity or composition could not be rejected. My results also suggest that plant species identity may be an important determinant of spatial structure in natural grasslands. There was a succession of the nematode fauna during the eight years after establishment of the experimental grassland, especially indicated by the increase in maturity index of the nematode fauna. The results highlight the need for long-term experiments to reveal successional trends in soil nematode communities after cessation of agriculture. The increase of plant feeders with time, the slow colonization rate and the enhanced abundance of fungal feeders in soil under forbs have implications for nature restoration of former agricultural land.