, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 121-128

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

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 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.

Received: 29 December 1997