Functional aspects of soil animal diversity in agricultural grasslands

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    There has been recent interest in the characterization of soil biodiversity and its function in agricultural grasslands. Much of the interest has come from the need to develop grassland management strategies directed at manipulating the soil biota to encourage a greater reliance on ecosystem self-regulation. This review summarises information on selected groups of soil animals in grasslands, the factors influencing their abundance, diversity and community structure and their relationships to the functioning and stability of grassland ecosystems. Observations on the impacts of agricultural managements on populations and communities of soil fauna and their interactions confirm that high input, intensively managed systems tend to promote low diversity while lower input systems conserve diversity. It is also evident that high input systems favour bacterial-pathways of decomposition, dominated by labile substrates and opportunistic, bacterial-feeding fauna. In contrast, low-input systems favour fungal-pathways with a more heterogeneous habitat and resource leading to domination by more persistent fungal-feeding fauna. In view of this, we suggest that low input grassland farming systems are optimal for increasing soil biotic diversity and hence self-regulation of ecosystem function. Research is needed to test the hypothesis that soil biodiversity is positively associated with stability, and to elucidate relationships between productivity, community integrity and functioning of soil biotic communities. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)263-276
    Number of pages13
    JournalApplied Soil Ecology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1998


    • Collembola
    • Earthworms
    • Ecosystem processes
    • Fertilizer
    • Functional diversity
    • Land management
    • Livestock grazing
    • Nematodes


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