Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 3-10

Effect of irrigation on nematode population dynamics and activity in desert soils

  • D. W. FreckmanAffiliated withDepartment of Nematology, University of Calfornia
  • , W. G. WhitfordAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, New Mexico State University
  • , Y. SteinbergerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Bar Ilan University

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The nematode community in litter and soil was examined for a year in the Chihuahuan desert, before and after supplemental rainfall application. Proportions of nematode-active or anhydrobiotic forms and population densities were determined for 3 treatments: control (natural rainfall), a single, large (25-mm) monthly irrigation pulse, and 4 smaller (6-mm) irrigations spaced at weekly intervals. In litter the greatest nematode abundance was in the 6 mm week−1 treatment (48 nematodes 20 g−1 litter). Bacteriovores and fungivores accounted for approximately 95% of the numbers and biomass in all treatments. In soil, water amendments had no significant effect (P < 0.05) on annual mean densities of total nematodes, fungivores, bacterivores, or omnivore predators. Phytophage densities were greater on both irrigation treatments, with highest densities (9268 m−2) in the 6 mm week−1 soils, which was 5.9% of the total soil nematode density. Total densities of individual trophic groups were not significantly different before or after rainfall. Soil nematode densities fluctuated independently with trophic group, month, and season. Bacterial feeders and omnivore predators were the largest contributor to total soil nematode density and biomass. Prior to irrigation, there were no differences in the percentage of anhydrobiotes on the three treatments. Anhydrobiotes decreased after irrigation in all treatments, and were significantly lower in soils of the larger, monthly irrigation. Nematodes were inactive (anhydrobiotic) and decoupled from decomposition processes when soil water matric potentials reached −0.4 MPa.

Key words

Nematode community Chihuahan desert Irrigation Nematode extraction Anhydrobiosis