Soils deliver important ecosystem services, such as nutrient provision for plants and the storage of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), which are greatly impacted by drought. Both plants and soil biota affect soil C and N availability, which might in turn affect their response to drought, offering the potential to feed back on each other's performance. In a greenhouse experiment, we compared legacy effects of repeated drought on plant growth and the soil food web in two contrasting land-use systems: extensively managed grassland, rich in C and with a fungal-based food web, and intensively managed wheat lower in C and with a bacterial-based food web. Moreover, we assessed the effect of plant presence on the recovery of the soil food web after drought. Drought legacy effects increased plant growth in both systems, and a plant strongly reduced N leaching. Fungi, bacteria, and their predators were more resilient after drought in the grassland soil than in the wheat soil. The presence of a plant strongly affected the composition of the soil food web, and alleviated the effects of drought for most trophic groups, regardless of the system. This effect was stronger for the bottom trophic levels, whose resilience was positively correlated to soil available C. Our results show that plant belowground inputs have the potential to affect the recovery of belowground communities after drought, with implications for the functions they perform, such as C and N cycling. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.
- Soil fauna