Changes in soil free-living nematode communities and their trophic composition along a climatic gradient


Ambiguity exists concerning the effects of climate on soil nematode-community composition. In this study, we examined the free-living nematode communities in soil along a climatic gradient representing humid-Mediterranean, Mediterranean, semi-arid, and arid climate types. The relationships between abiotic soil characteristics (organic carbon, soil moisture (SM), water-holding capacity) and nematode parameters, such as abundance, trophic group composition, and diversity indices, were explored in the context of climate and seasonality. Nematode abundance was lowest at the arid site. At the humid Mediterranean and Mediterranean locations, nematode abundance reached its peak in winter, while at the semi-arid and arid sites, an almost opposite trend was observed, with lowest abundances in winter, presumably due to a nutrient washout from the soil profile during the rainy season. On the trophic level, one trophic group demonstrated a positive correlation with SM and one trophic group demonstrated a negative one at each location, while the other two groups remained constant. Fungi-feeding nematodes were found to be unaffected by SM at the humid-Mediterranean and Mediterranean locations, while at the semi-arid and arid sites their proportion increased in correlation with decreasing SM. Bacteria-feeders increased with SM at the arid site, were unaffected at the semi-arid location, and decreased with SM at the humid-Mediterranean and Mediterranean sites. Plant-parasites were associated with SM only at the humid-Mediterranean site. Omnivores-predators were positively affected by SM at the two middle locations, staying constant at the humid-Mediterranean and arid sites. These findings point to the strong linkage existing between nematode trophic behavior and climatic factors, demonstrating distinctive communal fingerprints for each climate type.

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Levi, T. , Sherman, C. , Pen-Mouratov, S. and Steinberger, Y. (2012) Changes in soil free-living nematode communities and their trophic composition along a climatic gradient. Open Journal of Ecology, 2, 79-89. doi: 10.4236/oje.2012.22010.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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