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Soil animals influence microbial abundance, but not plant–microbial competition for soil organic nitrogen.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2004
<mark>Journal</mark>Functional Ecology
Issue number5
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)631-640
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


1. In a microcosm experiment we examined the effects of individual species of microarthropods, and variations in microarthropod diversity of up to eight species, on soil microbial properties and the short-term partitioning of a dual-labelled organic nitrogen source (glycine-2-13C-15N) between a grassland plant, Agrostis capillaris, and the soil microbial biomass, to determine how soil fauna and their diversity influence plant–microbial competition for organic N. 2. We hypothesized that variations in the diversity of animals would influence the partitioning of 15N inputs between plants and the microbial biomass, due to the effect of animal grazing on the microbial biomass, and hence its ability to sequester N. 3. Certain individual species of Collembola influenced the microbial community of the soil. Folsomia quadrioculata reduced microbial biomass, whereas Mesaphorura macrochaeta enhanced arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) colonization of A. capillaris roots. Effects of increasing species richness of microarthropods on microbial biomass and AM colonization were detected, but these effects could be interpreted in relation to the presence or absence of individual species. 4. Microbial uptake of added 15N was not affected by the presence of any of the individual species of animal in the monoculture treatments. Similarly, increasing diversity of microarthropods had no detectable effect on microbial 15N. 5. Root and shoot uptake of 15N was also largely unaffected by both single species and variations in diversity of microarthropods. However, one collembolan species, Ceratophysella denticulata, reduced root 15N capture when present in monoculture. We did not detect 13C in plant tissue under any experimental treatments, indicating that all N was taken up by plants after mineralization. 6. Our data suggest that, while single species and variations in diversity of microarthropods influence microbial abundance in soil, there is no effect on microbial or plant uptake of N. Overall, these data provide little support for the notion that microbial-feeding soil animals are regulators of microbial–plant competition for N.