Biology Bulletin Reviews

, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp 393–403 | Cite as

Trophic chains in the soil



The trophic links of soil animals are extensively diverse but also flexible. Moreover, the feeding activity of large soil saprotrophs often cascades into a range of ecosystem-level consequences via the ecological engineering. An improved knowledge of the main sources of energy utilized by soil animals is needed for understanding the functional structure of soil animal communities and their participation in the global carbon cycling. Using published and original data, we consider the relative importance of dead organic matter and saprotrophic microorganisms as a basal energy source in the detritus-based food chains, the feeding of endogeic macrofauna on the stabilized soil organic matter, and the role of recent photosynthate in the energy budget of soil communities. Soil food webs are spatially and functionally compartmentalized, though the separation of food chains into bacteriaand fungi-based channels seems to be an oversimplification. The regulation of litter decomposition rates via top-down trophic interactions across more than one trophic level is only partly supported by experimental data, but mobile litter-dwelling predators play a crucial role in integrating local food webs within and across neighboring ecosystems.


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© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Severtsov Institute of Ecology and EvolutionRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

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