Disturbance–diversity relationships have long been studied in ecology with a unimodal relationship as the key prediction. Although this relationship has been widely contested, it is rarely tested for soil invertebrate fauna, an important component of terrestrial biodiversity. We tested disturbance–diversity relationships for soil meso- and macrofauna in a salt marsh where periodic sea water inundation and cattle grazing occur as stressors. We hypothesized a unimodal inundation frequency–diversity relationship, whereas we expected grazing to overrule the effects of inundation frequency due to its large effects on the habitat of soil fauna. We found a negative relationship between inundation frequency and diversity at the ungrazed sites and no relationship at the grazed sites. Moreover, we found a negative relationship between community biomass and diversity for soil fauna that may have caused this negative disturbance–diversity relationship. Community biomass at the intermediate inundation frequency increased due to the dominance of Orchestia gammarellus (a macro-detritivore species), which could exploit low quality litters at the ungrazed sites. We highlight that the negative relationship between faunal community biomass and faunal diversity may influence disturbance–diversity relationships and illustrate that total biomass distribution of feeding guilds of soil fauna can improve our understanding of the soil fauna response to stressors in salt marshes.
- intermediate disturbance