, Volume 379, Issue 1-2, pp 121-133
Date: 14 Feb 2014

Impact of understory mosses and dwarf shrubs on soil micro-arthropods in a boreal forest chronosequence

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Plant species and functional groups are known to drive the community of belowground invertebrates but whether their effects are consistent across environmental gradients is less well understood. We aimed to determine if plant effects on belowground communities are consistent across a successional gradient in boreal forests of northern Sweden.


We performed two plant removal experiments across ten stands that form a 364-year post-fire boreal forest chronosequence. Through the removal of plant functional groups (mosses or dwarf shrubs) and of individual species of dwarf shrubs, we aimed to determine if the effects of functional groups and species on the soil micro-arthropod community composition varied across this chronosequence.


Removal of mosses had a strong negative impact on the abundance and diversity of Collembola and Acari and this effect was consistent across the chronosequence. Only specific Oribatid families declined following dwarf-shrub species removals, with some of these responses being limited to old forest stands.


Our results show that the impacts of plants on micro-arthropods is consistent across sites that vary considerably in their stage of post-fire ecosystem development, despite these stages differing greatly in plant productivity, fertility, humus accumulation and moss development. In addition, mosses are a much stronger driver of the micro-arthropod community than vascular plants.

Responsible Editor: Gera Hol.