Plant and Soil

, Volume 170, Issue 1, pp 35–43 | Cite as

The detritus food-web and the diversity of soil fauna as indicators of disturbance regimes in agro-ecosystems

  • D. A. Wardle
  • G. W. Yeates
  • R. N. Watson
  • K. S. Nicholson
Biodiversity And Ecosystem Process

Abstract

An ongoing study initiated in August 1990 investigated the effects of disturbances (organic mulching, cultivation, herbicides) on the detritus food-web in annual (maize) and perennial (asparagus) cropping systems. In this paper we attempt to simultaneously assess the functional and taxonomic structure of various components of this food-web. Biota in the perennial system was the most responsive to disturbance. The microflora was strongly influenced by mulching, and through tritrophic effects caused increases in top predatory but not most microbe-feeding nematodes. These effects have become increasingly apparent as the study has progressed and, in the asparagus site, have worked their way down the soil profile over time. Cultivation in the asparagus site caused large increases in bacterial-feeding nematodes, probably due to the high weed levels which developed during the winter months under that treatment. Evidence appears to exist for a cascade effect operating due to top down effects of nematodes on lower trophic levels. Ordination analysis of the nematode data demonstrated that nematode populations were more closely related to the state of environmental factors at earlier samplings than at contemporary samplings, and that the linkages between the nematode and environmental data sets strengthened over time. For both the nematode and soil-associated beetle data distinct assemblages of organisms were found in the mulched plots; distinct assemblages of nematode genera also emerged in the cultivated asparagus plots after two years. The soil-associated macrofauna was usually linked to high weed and surface organic residue levels. Species diversity of soil associated nematodes was not particularly responsive to disturbance while that of the soil-associated beetles was strongly enhanced by mulching and (sometimes) high weed levels. Approaches based on either functional group or species composition data emerged in our study as reasonably sensitive indicators for assessing the response of the soil biota to disturbance.

Key words

agro-ecosystem diversity food-web macrofauna nematode trophic interaction 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Altieri M G 1991 How can we best use biodiversity in agroecosystems? Outlook Agric. 20, 15–23.Google Scholar
  2. Bengtsson J, Zheng D W, Agren G I and Persson T 1994 Food-webs in soil: an interface between population and ecosystem ecology.In Linking Species and Ecosystems. Eds. G Jones and J H Lawton. Chapman and Hill, New York. (In press).Google Scholar
  3. Carpenter S R, Kitchell J E and Hodgson J R 1988 Cascading trophic interactions and lake productivity. BioScience 35, 634–639.Google Scholar
  4. Coleman D C, Reid C P P and Cole V C 1983 Biological strategies of nutrient cycling in soil systems. Adv. Ecol. Res. 13, 1–55.Google Scholar
  5. Favretto M R, Paoletti M G, Caporali F, Nannipieri P, Onnis A and Tomei P 1992 Invertebrates and nutrients in a Mediterranean vineyard mulched with subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.). Biol. Fertil Soils 14, 151–158.Google Scholar
  6. Griffiths B S, Welschen R, van Areadonk J J C M and Lambers H 1992 The effect of nitrate-nitrogen on bacteria and the bacterialfeeding fauna in the rhizosphere of different grass species. Oecologia 91, 253–259.Google Scholar
  7. Hendrix P F and Parmelee R W 1985 Decomposition, nutrient loss and microarthropod densities in herbicide-treated grass litter in a Georgia piedmont agro-ecosystem. Soil. Biol. Biochem. 17, 421–428.Google Scholar
  8. Hendrix P F, Parmelee R W, Crossley D A, Coleman D C, Odum E P and Groffman P M 1986 Detritus food-webs in conventional and no-tillage agroecosystems. BioScience 36, 374–380.Google Scholar
  9. House G J, Stinner B R, Crossley D A, Odum E P and Langdale G W 1984 Nitrogen cycling in conventional and no-tillage agroe-cosystems in the southern piedmont. J. Soil Water Conserv. 39, 194–200.Google Scholar
  10. Ingham E R, Trofymow J A, Ames R N, Hunt H W, Morley C R, Moore J C and Coleman D C 1986 Trophic interactions and nutrient cycling in a semi-arid grassland soil. I. Seasonal dynamics of the natural populations, their interactions and effects on nutrient cycling. J. Appl. Ecol. 23, 597–614.Google Scholar
  11. Kajak A, Chmielewski K, Kaczmarck M and Rembiolourska E 1993 Experimental studies on the effect of epigeic predators on matter decomposition processes in managed peat grasslands. Pol. Ecol. Stud. 17, 289–310.Google Scholar
  12. Mahn E-G and Kastner A 1985 Effects of herbicide stress on weed communities and soi nematodes in agroecosystems. Oikos 44, 185–190.Google Scholar
  13. Mulongoy K 1986 Microbial biomass and maize nitrogen uptake under aPosphocarpus palustris live-mulch grown on a tropical alfisol. Soil Biol. Biochem. 18, 395–398.Google Scholar
  14. Paustian K, Andren O, Clarholm M, Hansson A-C, Johansson G, Lagerlof J, Lindberg T, Pettersson R and Sohlenius B 1990 Carbon and nitrogen budgets of four agro-ecosystems with annual and perennial crops, with and without N fertilisation. J. Appl. Ecol. 27, 60–84.Google Scholar
  15. Power M E 1992 Top-down and bottom-up forces in food webs: do plants have primacy. Ecology 73, 733–746.Google Scholar
  16. Ter Braak C J F 1987 Ordination.In Data Analysis in Community and Landscape Ecology. Eds. R H G Jongman, C J F Ter Braak and O F Rvan Tongeren. pp 91–173. Pudoc, Wageningen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  17. Ter Braak C J F and Prentice I C 1988 A theory of gradient analysis. Adv. Ecol. Res. 18, 271–317.Google Scholar
  18. Triplett G B and Worsham A D 1986 Principles of weed management with surface tillage systems.In No-Tillage and Surface-Tillage Agriculture. Eds. M A Sprague and G B Triplett. pp 319–346. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  19. Tscharntke T 1992 Cascade effects among four trophic levels: bird predation on galls affects density dependant parasitism. Ecology 73, 1689–1698.Google Scholar
  20. Wardle D A 1992 A comparative assessment of factors which influence microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen levels in soils. Biol. Rev. 67, 321–358.Google Scholar
  21. Wardle D A 1993 Changes in the microbial biomass and metabolic quotient during leaf litter succession in some New Zealand forest and scrubland ecosystems. Funct. Ecol. 7, 346–355.Google Scholar
  22. Wardle D A 1995 Impacts of disturbance on detritus food-webs in agroecosystems of contrasting tillage and weed management practices. Adv. Ecol. Res. 26 (In press).Google Scholar
  23. Wardle D A and Yeates G W 1993 The dual importance of competition and predation as regulatory forces in terrestrial ecosystems-evidence from decomposer food-webs. Oecologia 93, 303–306.Google Scholar
  24. Wardle D A, Nicholson K S and Yeates G W 1993a The effects of weed management strategies on some soil-associated arthropods in maize and asparagus ecosystems. Pedobiologia 37, 257–269Google Scholar
  25. Wardle D A, Yeates G W, Watson R N and Nicholson K S 1993b Response of soil microbial biomass and plant litter decomposition to weed-management strategies in maize and asparagus cropping systems. Soil Biol. Biochem. 25, 857–868.Google Scholar
  26. Yeates G W 1982 Variation in pasture nematode populations over thirty-six months in a summer dry silt loam. Pedobiologia 24, 329–346.Google Scholar
  27. Yeates G W, Bongers T, de Goede R G M, Freckman D W and Georgeiva S S 1993a Feeding habits in nematode families and genera—a guide for soil ecologists. J. Nematol. 25, 315–331.Google Scholar
  28. Yeates G W, Wardle D A and Watson R N 1993b Relation-ships between nematodes, soil microbial biomass and weed-management strategies in maize and asparagus cropping systems. Soil Biol. Biochem. 25, 869–876.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. A. Wardle
    • 1
  • G. W. Yeates
    • 2
  • R. N. Watson
    • 1
  • K. S. Nicholson
    • 1
  1. 1.Ruakura Agricultural CentreHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Landcare ResearchLower HuttNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations