Does plant species co-occurrence influence soil mite diversity?

TitleDoes plant species co-occurrence influence soil mite diversity?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsJohn, MG, Wall, DH, Behan-Pelletier, VM
Pagination625 -633
Accession NumberKNZ001035

Few studies have considered whether plant taxa can be used as predictors of belowground faunal diversity in natural ecosystems. We examined soil mite (Acari) diversity beneath six grass species at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, Kansas, USA. We tested the hypotheses that soil mite species richness, abundance, and taxonomic diversity are greater (1) beneath grasses in dicultures (different species) compared to monocultures (same species), (2) beneath grasses of higher resource quality (lower C:N) compared to lower resource quality, and (3) beneath heterogeneous mixes of grasses (C3 and C4 grasses growing together) compared to homogeneous mixes (C3 or C4 grasses) using natural occurrences of plant species as treatments. This study is the first to examine the interaction between above- and belowground diversity in a natural setting with species-level resolution of a hyper-diverse taxon.

Our results indicate that grasses in diculture supported a more species and phylogenetically rich soil mite fauna than was observed for monocultures and that this relationship was significant at depth but not in the upper soil horizon. We noted that mite species richness was not linearly related to grass species richness, which suggests that simple extrapolations of soil faunal diversity based on plant species inventories may underestimate the richness of associated soil mite communities. The distribution of mite size classes in dicultures was considerably different than those for monocultures. There was no difference in soil mite richness between grass combinations of differing resource quality, or resource heterogeneity.