Soil biodiversity has been recognized as a key feature of ecosystem functioning and stability. However, soil biodiversity is strongly impaired by agriculture and relatively little is known on how and at what spatial and temporal scales soil biodiversity is restored after the human disturbances have come to an end. Here, a multi-scale approach was used to compare diversity patterns of soil mites and nematodes at four stages (early, mid, late, reference site) along a secondary succession chronosequence from abandoned arable land to heath land. In each field four soil samples were taken during four successive seasons. We determined soil diversity within samples (α-diversity), between samples (β-diversity) and within field sites (γ-diversity). The patterns of α- and γ-diversity developed similarly along the chronosequence for oribatid mites, but not for nematodes. Nematode α-diversity was highest in mid- and late-successional sites, while γ-diversity was constant along the chronosequence. Oribatid mite β-diversity was initially high, but decreased thereafter, whereas nematode β-diversity increased when succession proceeded; indicating that patterns of within-site heterogeneity diverged for oribatid mites and nematodes. The spatio-temporal diversity patterns after land abandonment suggest that oribatid mite community development depends predominantly on colonization of new taxa, whereas nematode community development depends on shifts in dominance patterns. This would imply that at old fields diversity patterns of oribatid mites are mainly controlled by dispersal, whereas diversity patterns of nematodes are mainly controlled by changing abiotic or biotic soil conditions. Our study shows that the restoration of soil biodiversity along secondary successional gradients can be both scale- and phylum-dependent.
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Oecologica
Journal publication date2009

ID: 115416