This investigation analyses whether soil nematode diversity is correlated with soil functional parameters to serve as bioindicator of soil functioning. The analysis focuses on the interrelations of nematofauna, microflora, and soil nitrogen pools. The sites studied represent six major European grassland types: Northern tundra, atlantic heath, wet grassland, seminatural temperate grassland, East European steppe, and mediterranean garigue. Continental and local climate gradients were combined to a wide and continuous range of microclimate conditions. Nematode richness, as indicated by the number of genera, was highest under temperate conditions and declined towards the climatic extremes. Differences in richness affected all nematode feeding types proportionally. Nematode richness was the only parameter among a range of 15 alternatives tested that exhibited consistent correlations with mass and activity parameters of both nematofauna and microflora in the mineral grassland soils (garigue, wet grassland, seminatural grassland, steppe). In the same soils, the nematode Maturity Index was the best indicator of nitrogen status. We conclude that a high nematode richness can generally be seen as a good indicator of an active nematofauna and microflora in mineral grassland soils, and hence as an indicator of the decomposition function. The prospects of exploiting nematode diversity as an indicator of soil functioning are critically discussed.
- Diversity-function relationship
- Soil nitrogen
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Soil Science
- Insect Science