Journal of Forestry Research

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 973–982 | Cite as

Effects of soil fauna on leaf litter decomposition under different land uses in eastern coast of China

  • Baoling Yang
  • Wenwen Zhang
  • Hanmei Xu
  • Shaojun Wang
  • Xia Xu
  • Huan Fan
  • Han Y. H. Chen
  • Honghua Ruan
Original Paper


Soil fauna decompose litter, whereas land use changes may significantly alter the composition and structure of soil fauna assemblages. However, little is known of the effects of land-use on the contribution of soil fauna to litter decomposition. We studied the impacts of soil fauna on the decomposition of litter from poplar trees under three different land uses (i.e. poplar-crop integrated system, poplar plantation, and cropland), from December 2013 to December 2014, in a coastal area of Northern Jiangsu Province. We collected litter samples in litterbags with three mesh sizes (5, 1 and 0. 01 mm, respectively) to quantify the contribution of various soil fauna to the decomposition of poplar leaf litter. Litter decomposition rates differed significantly by land use and were highest in the cropland, intermediate in the poplar-crop integrated system, and lowest in the poplar plantation. Soil fauna in the poplar-crop integrated system was characterized by the highest numbers of taxa and individuals, and highest Margalef’s diversity, which suggested that agro-forestry ecosystems may support a greater quantity, distribution, and biodiversity of soil fauna than can single-species agriculture or plantation forestry. The individuals and groups of soil fauna in the macro-mesh litterbags were higher than in the meso-mesh litterbags under the same land use types. The average contribution rate of meso- and micro-fauna to litter decomposition was 18.46%, which was higher than the contribution rate of macro-fauna (3.31%). The percentage of remaining litter mass was inversely related to the density of the soil fauna (P < 0.05) in poplar plantations; however, was unrelated in the poplar-crop integrated system and cropland. This may have been the result of anthropogenic interference in poplar-crop integrated systems and croplands. Our study suggested that when land-use change alters vegetation types, it can affect species composition and the structure of soil fauna assemblages, which, in turn, affects litter decomposition.


Mesh sizes Poplar Leaf litter Soil fauna Litter decomposition 



We thank Guobing Wang, Yueqin Chen, Yuanyuan Li and Danyan Zhou for their assistance. Special thanks go to the Dongtai Forest Farm for its support in the field trials.


  1. Ammer S, Weber K, Abs C, Ammer C, Prietzel J (2006) Factors influencing the distribution and abundance of earthworm communities in pure and converted Scots pine stands. Appl Soil Ecol 33:10–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bao J, Yin X, Li X (2015) Study on the contribution of soil fauna to litter decomposition of Rhododendron chrysanthum in the Changbai Mountains. Acta Ecol Sin 35:1–12Google Scholar
  3. Bokhorst S, Wardle DA (2013) Microclimate within litter bags of different mesh size: implications for the ‘arthropod effect’ on litter decomposition. Soil Biol Biochem 58:147–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bradford MA, Tordoff GT, Jones TH, Newington JE (2002) Microbiota, fauna, and mesh size interactions in litter decomposition. Oikos 99:317–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cao Z (2007) Soil ecology. Chemical Industry Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  6. Chauvel A, Grimaldi M, Barros E, Blanchart E, Desjardins T, Sarrazin M, Lavelle P (1999) Pasture damage by an Amazonian earthworm. Nature 398:32–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen XL, Ju Q, Lin KL (2014) Development status, issues and countermeasures of China's plantation. World For Res 27:54–59Google Scholar
  8. Cutzpool LQ, Palaciosvargas JG, CastañOmeneses G, GarcíAcalderón NE (2007) Edaphic Collembola from two agroecosystems with contrasting irrigation type in Hidalgo State, Mexico. Appl Soil Ecol 36:46–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. David T, Peter BR, Forest I (2012) Biodiversity impacts ecosystem productivity as much as resources, disturbance or herbivory. Proc Natl Acad Sci 109:10394–10397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Deyn GB, Raaijmakers CE, Zoomer HR, Berg MP, de Ruiter PC, Verhoef HA, Martijn BT, Van der Putten WH (2003) Soil invertebrate fauna enhances grassland succession and diversity. Nature 422:711–713CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Deng X, Zou S, Fu X, Yao T, Sheng C, Bai Z (2003) The impacts of land use practices on the communities of soil fauna in the Xishuangbanna rain forest, Yunnan, China. Acta Ecol Sin 23:130–138Google Scholar
  12. Ekschmitta K, Liu M, Vettera S, Foxa O, Woltersa V (2005) Strategies used by soil biota to overcome soil organic matter stability—why is dead organic matter left over in the soil? Geoderma 128:167–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emmerling C (1995) Long-term effects of inundation dynamics and agricultural land-use on the distribution of soil macrofauna in fluvisols. Biol Fertil Soils 20:130–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fan H, Wang S, Ruan H, Tan Y, Zheng A, Xu Y, Xu K, Cao G (2014) Effects of soil fauna on litter decomposition and its community structure under different land use patterns in coastal region of northern Jiangsu province. J Nanjing For Univ (Natl Sci Ed) 38:1–7Google Scholar
  15. Franklin E, Magnusson WE, Luizão FJ (2005) Relative effects of biotic and abiotic factors on the composition of soil invertebrate communities in an Amazonian savanna. Appl Soil Ecol 29:259–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Galizzi MC, Zilli F, Marchese M (2012) Diet and functional feeding groups of Chironomidae (Diptera) in the Middle Paraná River floodplain (Argentina). Iheringia Série Zoologia 102:117–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ge B, Zhang D, Zhang H, Li Z, Liu Z, Zhou C, Tang B (2012) Community structure and functional groups of soil macrofauna in urban green spaces of Yancheng city, Jiangsu province in spring. Chin J Ecol 31:87–92Google Scholar
  18. Geissen V, Peña-Peña K, Huerta E (2009) Effects of different land use on soil chemical properties, decomposition rate and earthworm communities in tropical Mexico. Pedobiologia 53:75–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hati KM, Swarup A, Dwivedi AK, Misra AK, Bandyopadhyay KK (2007) Changes in soil physical properties and organic carbon status at the topsoil horizon of a vertisol of central India after 28 years of continuous cropping, fertilization and manuring. Agric Ecosyst Environ 119:127–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. He R, Chen Y, Deng C, Yang W, Zhang J, Liu Y (2015a) Seasonal responses of the soil meso- and microfauna to litter decomposition in alpine meadow of western Sichuan. Chin J Appl Environ Biol 21:350–357Google Scholar
  21. He R, Chen Y, Deng C, Yang W, Zhang J, Liu Y (2015b) Litter decomposition and soil faunal diversity of two understory plant debris in the alpine timberline ecotone of western Sichuan in a snow cover season. Chin J Appl Ecol 26:723–731Google Scholar
  22. Hunter MD, Adl S, Pringle CM, Coleman DC (2003) Relative effects of macroinvertebrates and habitat on the chemistry of litter during decomposition. Pedobiologia 47:101–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Illig J, Norton RA, Scheu S, Maraun M (2010) Density and community structure of soil- and bark-dwelling microarthropods along an altitudinal gradient in a tropical montane rainforest. Exp Appl Acarol 52:49–62CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Irmler U (2000) Changes in the fauna and its contribution to mass loss and N release during leaf litter decomposition in two deciduous forests. Pedobiologia 44:105–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jaccard P (1908) Nouvelles recherches sur la distribution florale. Bulletin De La Societe Vaudoise Des Sciences Naturelles 44:223–270Google Scholar
  26. Joo SJ, Yim MH, Nakane K (2006) Contribution of microarthropods to the decomposition of needle litter in a Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica D. Don) plantation. For Ecol Manage 234:192–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Koehler H, Born H (1989) The influence of vegetation structure on the development of soil mesofauna. Agric Ecosyst Environ 27:253–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lavelle P (2002) Functional domains in soils. Ecol Res 17:441–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Li J, Zhang W, Liao C, Yang Y, Fu S (2009) Responses of earthworms to organic matter at different stages of decomposition. Pedosphere 19:382–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Li Y, Luo C, Yang W, Hu J, Wu F (2011) Decomposition of eucalyptus-alder mixed litters and dynamics of soil faunal community. Chin J Appl Ecol 22:851–856Google Scholar
  31. Liang W, Lou Y, Li Q, Zhong S, Zhang X, Wang J (2009) Nematode faunal response to long-term application of nitrogen fertilizer and organic manure in Northeast China. Soil Biol Biochem 41:883–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lin B, Liu Q, Wu Y, He H (2004) Advances in the studies of forest litter. Chin J Ecol 23:60–64Google Scholar
  33. Lin Y, Zhang F, Liu H, Su H (2005) Fluctuation of soil fauna community in Baiwangshen during paper Mulberry leaf litter decomposition. Chin J Zool 40:60–66Google Scholar
  34. Lin G, Zhao F, Chen G, Chen S, Su J, Zhang T (2012) Effects of different land-use types on larger-size soil animal communities in the northern region of Qinghai Lake. Acta Prataculturae Sin 21:180–186Google Scholar
  35. Liu Q, Yin H, Cheng X, Lin B, Hu R, Zhao C, Yin C (2010) Problems and strategies of sustainable regeneration of plantation ecosystem in China. World For Res 23:71–75Google Scholar
  36. Liu Y, Zhang A, Yan Y, Li K, Fang Y (2011) Diversity of soil animal community under different land-use types in Chongming Island. J Fudan Univy (Natl Sci) 50:288–295Google Scholar
  37. Liu R, Li W, Yang W, Tan B, Wang W, Xu Z, Wu F (2013) Contributions of soil fauna to litter decomposition in alpine/subalpine forests. Chin J Appl Ecol 24:3354–3360Google Scholar
  38. Mando A, Ouattara B, Sédogo M, Stroosnijder L, Ouattara K, Brussaard L, Vanlauwe B (2005) Long-term effect of tillage and manure application on soil organic fractions and crop performance under Sudano-Sahelian conditions. Soil Tillage Res 80:95–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Maraun M, Scheu S (1996) Changes in microbial biomass, respiration and nutrient status of beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaf litter processed by millipedes (Glomeris marginata). Oecologia 107:131–140CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Margalef DR (1958) Information theory in ecology. Gen Syst 3:36–71Google Scholar
  41. Moore JC, Berlow EL, Coleman DC, Ruiter PCD, Dong Q, Alan H, Collins JN, Mccann KS, Kim M, Morin PJ (2004) Detritus, trophic dynamics and biodiversity. Ecol Lett 7:584–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pielou EC (1967) The measurement of diversity in different types of biological collection. J Theor Biol 15:131–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Read DJ, Perez-Moreno J (2003) Mycorrhizas and nutrient cycling in ecosystems—A journey towards relevance? New Phytol 157:475–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ruan H, Li Y, Zou X (2005) Soil communities and plant litter decomposition as influenced by forest debris: variation across tropical riparian and upland sites. Pedobiologia 49:529–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Seastedt TR (1984) The role of microarthropods in decomposition and mineralization processes. Annu Rev Entomol 29:25–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shannon CE (1948) A mathematical theory of communication. Bell Syst Tech J 27:379–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Simpson EH (1949) Measurement of diversity. Nature 163:688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Swift MJ, Heal OW, Anderson JM (1979) Decomposition in terrestial ecosystems. Decompos Terr Ecosyst 5:607–612Google Scholar
  49. Wall DH, Bradford MA, John MGS, Trofymow JA, Behan-Pelletier V, Bignell DE, Dangerfield JM, Parton WJ, Rusek J, Voigt W (2008) Global decomposition experiment shows soil animal impacts on decomposition are climate-dependent. Glob Change Biol 14:2661–2677Google Scholar
  50. Wang G, Wang Y, Han L, Zhang M, Li B (2005) Soil animal communities of variously utilized in the Dongting Lake region. Acta Ecol Sin 25:2629–2636Google Scholar
  51. Wang S, Ruan H, Wang B (2009) Effects of soil microarthropods on plant litter decomposition across an elevation gradient in the Wuyi Mountains. Soil Biol Biochem 41:891–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wang S, Ruan H, Han Y (2010) Effects of microclimate, litter type, and mesh size on leaf litter decomposition along an elevation gradient in the Wuyi Mountains, China. Ecol Res 25:1113–1120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wang X, Yin X, Song B, Xin W, Li B, Ma H (2011) Main species litter decomposition and function of soil fauna in Leymus chinensis grassland. Acta Prataculturae Sin 20:143–149Google Scholar
  54. Wang W, Yang W, Tan B, Liu R, Wu F (2015) Effects of soil fauna to nitrogen and phosphorus releases during litter decomposition at different phenological stages in the subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest in Sichuan Basin. Scientia Silvae Sinicae 51:1–11Google Scholar
  55. Wei X, Hao M, Shao M, Gale WJ (2006) Changes in soil properties and the availability of soil micronutrients after 18 years of cropping and fertilization. Soil Tillage Res 91:120–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wood CT, Schlindwein CCD, Soares GLG, Araujo PB (2012) Feeding rates of Balloniscus sellowii (Crustacea, Isopoda, Oniscidea): the effect of leaf litter decomposition and its relation to the phenolic and flavonoid content. Zookeys 24:231–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wu T (2013) Effects of global change on soil fauna diversity: a review. Chin J Appl Ecol 24:581–588Google Scholar
  58. Wu D, Zhang B, Chen P (2006) Community structure and composition of soil macrofauna under different land use in Changchun City. Acta Zool Sin 52:279–287Google Scholar
  59. Wu Y, Cai Q, Lin C, Huang J, Cheng X (2009) Effects of terrace hedgerows on soil macrofauna diversity. Acta Ecol Sin 29:5320–5329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wu F, Yang W, Zhang J, Deng R (2010) Litter decomposition in two subalpine forests during the freeze–thaw season. Acta Oecol 36:135–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Xia L, Wu F, Yang W, Tan B (2012) Contribution of soil fauna to the mass loss of Betula albosinensis leaf litter at early decomposition stage of subalpine forest litter in western Sichuan. Chin J Appl Ecol 23:301–306Google Scholar
  62. Xu G, Kuster TM, Günthardt-Goerg MS, Matthias D, Li M (2012) Seasonal exposure to drought and air warming affects soil Collembola and mites. PLoS ONE 7:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Xuluc-Tolosa FJ, Vester HFM, Ramĺrez-Marcial N, Castellanos-Albores J, Lawrence D (2003) Leaf litter decomposition of tree species in three successional phases of tropical dry secondary forest in Campeche, Mexico. For Ecol Manag 174:401–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yang X, Zou X (2006) Soil Fauna and leaf litter decomposition in tropical rain forest in XiShuangBanNa, SW China: effects of Mesh Size of Litterbags. J Plant Ecol 30:791–801CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yang X, Chen J (2009) Plant litter quality influences the contribution of soil fauna to litter decomposition in humid tropical forests, southwestern China. Soil Biol Biochem 41:910–918CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Yin W, Hu S, Shen Y (1998) Pictorial keys to soil animals of China. Science Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  67. Yin X, Zhong W, Wang H, Chen P (2002) Decomposition of forest defoliation and role of soil animals in Xiao Hinggan Mountains. Geogr Res 21:689–699Google Scholar
  68. Yin X, Song B, Dong W, Xin W, Wang Y (2010) A review on the eco-geography of soil fauna in China. J Geogr Sci 20:333–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Yu Q, Wu J, Liang D, Zhang J, Li Z, Zhang S (2015) Effects of flooding condition and mesh size on leaf litter decomposition of the dominant species, Carex atrofusca, in an alpine swamp meadow in Tibetan Plateau. Chin J Ecol 34:2785–2791Google Scholar
  70. Zhang J, Qin Z, Li Q (2011) Clustering and ordination of soil animal community under different land-use types. Chin J Ecol 30:2849–2856Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Baoling Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wenwen Zhang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Hanmei Xu
    • 1
  • Shaojun Wang
    • 4
  • Xia Xu
    • 1
  • Huan Fan
    • 1
  • Han Y. H. Chen
    • 5
  • Honghua Ruan
    • 1
  1. 1.Co-Innovation Center for Sustainable Forestry in Southern China, College of Biology and the EnvironmentNanjing Forestry UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Jiangsu Vocational College of Agriculture and ForestryJurongPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Shanghai Forestry StationShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.College of Environment Science and EngineeringSouthwest Forestry UniversityKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Faculty of Natural Resources ManagementLakehead UniversityThunder BayCanada

Personalised recommendations