The hypothesis that the trophic structure of soil food webs changes as a result of the abiotic environment was examined by reviewing studies of soil biota. In dry soils with a water potential below −1.5 MPa, most bacteria, protozoans, and many species of nematodes are not active. These taxa persist in the soil in a state of anhydrobiosis. Because soil fungi grow at soil water potentials of −6.0 to −8.0 MPa, soil food webs in dry environments appear to be fungal-based and fungal grazers in dry environments appear to be predominantly fungiphagous mites. There is indirect evidence that some species of fungiphagous mites remain inactive in dry soils in a state of “cryptobiosis”. In habitats where there is insufficient vegetative cover to shade and modify the soil surface, the functional soil food web consists of fungi and a few taxa of soil acari for extended periods of time.
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Whitford, W.G. Abiotic controls on the functional structure of soil food webs. Biol Fert Soils 8, 1–6 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00260508
- Water potential
- Trophic structure
- Food web