Projects per year
Soil life is highly diverse, and ecologically intricate due to myriad of biotic interactions that take place. Terrestrial nematodes have a high potential to serve as an effective and policy-relevant indicator group for ecosystem functioning and soil biodiversity. The work described in this thesis contributed to the robust mapping of nematode communities at scales relevant in both agronomic and environmental contexts. The overarching aim of the work described in this thesis was to contribute to a sound exploration of the potential of nematode communities as an indicator group for the biological condition of soils. Therefore, the distributions of a wide range of nematode taxa were studied, within and between trophic groups and in soils conditioned by various plant species and/or farming systems.
In Chapter 2 nematode taxon-specific qPCR assays were used to pinpoint responses of nematode communities to invasive plant species Solidago gigantea in two invaded ecosystems: semi-natural grasslands and riparian floodplains. Nematode communities and fungal biomass were examined in adjacent invaded and uninvaded patches. The dominant presence of the invasive plant causes a decrease of plant species-richness and diversity, and an about twofold increase of fungal biomass. Only the density of a single group of fungivorous nematodes (Aphelenchoididea) increased, whereas the densities of two other, phylogenetically distinct lineages of fungivorous nematodes, Aphelenchidae and Diphtherophoridae, were unaffected by the local increase in fungal biomass. Apparently S. gigantea induces a local asymmetric boost of the fungal community, and only Aphelenchoididae were able to benefit from this change induced by the invasive plant.
In Chapter 3 the outcome is shown of a test whether farming system effects are mirrored in compositional changes in nematode communities. The long-term impact of three farming systems (conventional, integrated and organic) on nematode communities was investigated at the Vredepeel, an experimental farm in the southeastern part of The Netherlands. The results showed that organic farming causes specific shifts in nematode community composition, exceeding the usually large crop-related assemblage shifts. Strongest effects were observed for the (putative) bacterivore Prismatolaimus, which was relatively common in organic fields and nearly absent in conventional and integrated farming. A reverse effect was observed for Pristionchus; this necromenic bacterivore and facultative predator made up about 7 – 21% of the total nematode community in integrated and conventional farming, whereas it was nearly absent from organic fields. The observed farming system effects suggest that specific nematode taxa might be indicative for the impact of farming practices on soil biota. Knowledge of spatial distribution patterns of soil organisms with distinct trophic preferences will contribute to our understanding of factors that maintain and regulate soil biodiversity, and is essential information to design soil sampling strategies with predictable accuracies.
Chapter 4 deals with microscale patchiness of 45 nematode taxa (at family, genus or species-level) in arable fields and semi-natural grasslands, on marine clay, river clay or sandy soils. Contrary to our expectations, an increase of the number of cores per composite sample above 3, did not result in more accurate detection for any of the taxa under investigation (range of number of cores per composite sample: 3, 6, 12 or 24). Neither system nor soil type did influence microscale distribution. The insights in the spatial distribution of nematodes at microscale presented here, sheds light on the impact of trophic preferences on the spatial distribution of individual nematode taxa, and will allow for the design of statistically sound soil sampling strategies.
Chapter 5 shows belowground distribution patterns of 48 nematode taxa in 12 visually homogeneous fields (each 100 x 100 m) on three soil types (marine clay, river clay and sand) and two land-use types (arable and natural grasslands) across the Netherlands. Over 35,000 nematode-taxon specific qPCR assays allowed us to quantitative analyse nematode taxa at family, genus or species level in over 1,200 soil samples. A sampling scheme was optimized for Bayesian geostatistical analysis (Integrated nested Laplace approximations; INLA). Multivariate analysis show soil type and land-use related differences in the nematode community composition, which underline the effects of environmental filtering and niche partitioning of nematodes. All individual nematode taxa together show a wide range of degrees of spatial variabilities were found (expressed by the range-parameter and the spatial variance parameter (s2spatial). No general effects were detected of soil characteristics or nematode traits (cp-value, trophic group, weight) on the spatial distribution parameters. The relatively high percentages of unexplained spatial variability – 92.5% of the variation for the range-parameter and 74% for spatial variance (s2spatial) – point at a major role of stochasticity for variability of nematode densities within fields. This study adds empirical evidence that distribution patterns of terrestrial nematodes, in areas without noticeable gradients, are driven by neutral / stochastic processes, within the boundaries set by the environment.
In the final Chapter 6, I discuss the opportunities and challenges of the use of molecular tools in soil ecological research, the impact of trophic preferences on the whereabouts of nematodes, the use of nematode communities as indicator for soil condition and how this might be developed and applied to facilitate more sustainable ecosystem management.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||19 May 2017|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|
- spatial distribution
- soil fauna
- trophic levels
- food webs
- soil ecology
- soil biology
- farming systems
- soil types (ecological)