Combined effects of aboveground herbivores and belowground microorganisms on dynamics of soil nematode communities in grassland mesocosms

Yuting Ji, Gerlinde B. De Deyn, Naili Zhang, Hongwei Xu, Minggang Wang* (Corresponding author), T. Martijn Bezemer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Nematodes are the most abundant animals in soil. They are active in all trophic levels and functionally important for plant growth and plant diversity. Nematode community structure not only can be directly influenced by other belowground organisms such as soil microbes via trophic interactions, but also indirectly by aboveground organisms like herbivores through plant-mediated aboveground-belowground linkages. In the current study, by introducing foliar-feeding aphids (Rhopalosiphum padi) and soil microbial suspensions to mesocosms planted with 12 grassland plant species and where an identical nematode community was introduced in all mesocosms, we aimed to investigate the individual and combined effects of soil microbes and foliar herbivores on the dynamics of plant and the soil nematode community. Introduction of aphids reduced shoot and root biomass of the plant community, and in particular decreased the proportional biomass of the dominant plant species Anthoxanthum odoratum, resulting in a higher diversity of the plant community but without affecting the nematode communities. In contrast, the inoculation of soil microbes did not significantly alter plant composition structure, but it reduced the total nematode abundance and enhanced nematode diversity by increasing the abundance of carnivorous nematodes and decreasing the abundance of plant-feeding nematodes. There were no significant aboveground-belowground interactions in the current study via effects of aphids on the soil nematode communities or via soil microbes and nematodes on the plant communities. Collectively, our study indicates that soil nematode communities in grasslands can be strongly steered by soil microbial inoculations but weakly influenced by aboveground herbivory despite its resulting changes in plant communities, notwithstanding that these effects appeared to be largely independent.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105097
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2023

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