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Strong Impacts Of Belowground Tree Inputs On Soil Nematode Trophic Composition

A. Keith, R. Brooker, G. Osler, S. Chapman, D. Burslem, R. Wal
Published 2009 · Biology

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Trees have a key role in determining the composition of soil biota via both above and belowground resource-based mechanisms, and by altering abiotic conditions. We conducted an outdoor mesocosm experiment to investigate the relative impact of above and belowground tree inputs on soil nematode trophic composition, and examine whether tree-driven impacts differed between contrasting species (birch and pine). For both species, we created a factorial design of litter addition and root presence treatments. The litter addition treatment was equivalent to natural levels of litterfall; tree saplings were planted in mesocosms for the root presence treatment and an unplanted control treatment was established that had no litter or root inputs. Litter addition had a limited impact on soil nematode community composition: it primarily decreased omnivore and predatory nematode abundance in birch but had few other effects on the nematode community. By contrast, root presence markedly altered nematode community composition through changes in a range of trophic groups. For both birch and pine, there were significant increases in total, fungivore and predatory nematode abundance in root presence treatments, and furthermore, total and fungivore abundances were positively related to root biomass. Root presence of these contrasting tree species also had a distinctive impact on some specific nematode trophic groups; pine roots promoted bacterivore abundance while birch roots promoted root-hair feeding nematode abundance. These findings suggest strong bottom-up effects of belowground tree inputs, and indicate that particular components of the nematode community may be affected differently by resource quantity and quality. Consequently, we suggest that, in the short-term, belowground rather than aboveground tree inputs have a strong impact on soil food web structure and complexity.
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