Resource patchsize and patch nutritional quality are both important factors influencing local densities of herbivores. The responses of herbivores to resource patchsize have been mostly studied in aboveground plant–insect interactions, whereas belowground organisms have received little attention. We studied responses of different root-feedingnematode species associated with marram grass (Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link) to resource patchsize and quality. Different nematode species were released in experimental mesocosms filled with dune sand in which we established marram grass patches of varying sizes. Half of the patches of small, medium and large size were fertilized to test if immigration probabilities of nematodes depended on patch quality. We tested the hypotheses that (1) nematodes should aggregate on larger patches and (2) colonization of patches would also depend on patch nutritional quality, with higher nematoderecapture rates expected in fertilized patches. Two species (Helicotylenchus pseudorobustus, Hemicycliophora thornei) of the five released species were recaptured in the experiment. The fraction of nematodes immigrating into the rhizosphere of a plant patch increased with patchsize (i.e. root biomass), which was in line with predictions of the Resource Concentration Hypothesis. When fractions were recalculated to represent recapture rates per liter of soil, recapture rates of nematodes did not differ among patchsizes, indicating that the increase in recapture rates was directly proportional to the increase in patchsize. This suggests that the process through which nematodes located patches was not distinguishable from a random process where entering patches is based on random encounters with patch boundaries. In contrast to our expectation, fertilization had a strong negative effect on patch responses of both nematode species. Our study represents an approach that may be used to explore whether belowground biota behave in similar ways as aboveground biota, in order to determine how perceived differences in environments affect ecological interactions.
Bukovinszky, T., Bakker, E. S., Raaijmakers, C. E., Verschoor, A. M., & Bezemer, T. M. (2012). Host location success of root-feeding nematodes in patches that differ in size and quality: A belowground release-recapture experiment. Basic and Applied Ecology, 13(3), 221-231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2012.03.002