Bottom-up determination of soil collembola diversity and population dynamics in response to interactive climatic factors
Soil invertebrate contributions to decomposition are climate dependent. Understanding the influence of abiotic factors on soil invertebrate population dynamics will strengthen predictions regarding ecosystem functioning under climate change. As well as being important secondary decomposers, mycophagous collembola exert a strong influence on the growth and activity of primary decomposers, particularly fungi. Species-specific grazing preferences for different fungi enable fungal community composition to influence the direct impacts of climate change on collembola populations. We investigate the interactive roles of altered abiotic conditions (warming, wetting and drying) and the identity of the dominant decomposer fungus in determining collembola community dynamics in woodland soil mesocosms. The bottom-up influence of the dominant component of the fungal resource base was an important mediator of the direct climatic impacts on collembola populations. The positive influences of warming and wetting, and the negative influence of drying, on collembola abundance and diversity were much less pronounced in fungal-inoculation treatments, in which populations were reduced compared with uninoculated mesocosms. We conclude that the thick, sclerotised cords of the competitively dominant decomposer fungi reduced the biomass of smaller, more palatable soil fungi, limiting the size of collembola populations and their ability to respond to altered abiotic conditions.