Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 121–128

Soil microarthropods as indicators of exposure to environmental stress in Chihuahuan Desert rangelands

  • F. R. Kay
  • H. M. Sobhy
  • W. G. Whitford
ORIGINAL PAPER

DOI: 10.1007/s003740050472

Cite this article as:
Kay, F., Sobhy, H. & Whitford, W. Biol Fertil Soils (1999) 28: 121. doi:10.1007/s003740050472

Abstract

 We studied soil microarthropod communities along livestock grazing disturbance gradients, inside and outside grazing exclosures, and on areas subjected to restoration efforts (herbicide and bulldozing) in order to test the suitability of mites as indicators of rangeland soil quality. We found that mite numbers generally increased with decreased grazing disturbance. Soil microarthropods appeared to respond to a complex of factors including soil compaction, depth to an impervious soil layer, below-ground vegetative biomass, and residual effects of herbicide. All of our study plots, except those that had been herbicide treated, were dominated by microbivorous mites of the family Nanorchestidae. The numerical responses of mites, especially nanorchestids, appeared to provide a sensitive indicator of ecosystem health in a Chihuahuan Desert grassland.

Key words DesertificationDesert grasslandGrazingHerbicidesIndicators

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. R. Kay
    • 1
  • H. M. Sobhy
    • 1
  • W. G. Whitford
    • 1
  1. 1.Jornada Experimental Range, PO Box 30003, MSC 3JER, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8003, USA MX
  2. 2.US Environmental Protection Agency, National Exposure Laboratory, Environmental Sciences Division, PO Box 93478, Las Vegas, NV 89196, USAUS