Development of “best practices” for sampling of an important surface-dwelling soil mite in pastoral landscapes

Christian Nansen, Jerome Gumley, Lloyd Groves, Maria Nansen, D. Severtson, James Ridsdill-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015, Springer International Publishing Switzerland. In this study, we analyzed 1145 vacuum samples of redlegged earth mites (RLEM) [Halotydeus destructor (Tucker) (Acari: Penthaleidae)] from 18 sampling events at six locations in pastoral landscapes of Western Australia during three growing seasons (2012–2014) (total of 228,299 RLEM individuals). The specific objectives were to determine: (1) presence/absence effects of a range of vegetation characteristics, (2) possible factors influencing RLEM sampling performance during the course of the season and day, (3) effects of size of area sampled and duration of sampling, (4) the spatial structure of RLEM counts in uniform pastoral vegetation, and (5) develop “best practices” regarding field-based vacuum sampling of surface dwelling soil mites in pastoral landscapes. We found that sampling of completely bare ground will lead to very low RLEM counts but spots with sparse vegetation (presence of bare ground) probably increases the presence of microhabitats for mites to shelter in and therefore lead to higher RLEM counts. RLEM counts were positively associated with the height of vegetation, at least up to about 15 cm in height. In early season (May–August), highest RLEM counts will be obtained in the afternoon hours (2–4 pm), whereas in late season sampling (August-November), highest RLEM counts will be obtained around noon. Higher RLEM counts should be expected from spots with grazed/mowed vegetation including cape weed and without presence of grasses and stubble. Variogram analyses of high-resolution data sets suggested that considerable range of spatial autocorrelation should be expected from fields with fairly uniform vegetation, especially if RLEM population densities are high. We are therefore recommending that samples are collected at least 30 m apart, if the objective is to obtain independent (spatially non-correlated) counts. The results from this study may be used to develop effective sampling protocols deployed in field ecology studies of soil surface dwelling mesofauna in pastoral landscapes and other ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-414
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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