Effects of the nematofauna on microbial energy and matter transformation rates in European grassland soils

K Ekschmitt, G Bakonyi, M Bongers, T Bongers, S Bostrom, H Dogan, A Harrison, A Kallimanis, P Nagy, A.G. O'Donnell, B Sohlenius, GP Stamou, V Wolters

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    The effect of the nematofauna on the microbiology and soil nitrogen status was studied in 6 major European grassland types (Northern tundra (Abisko, Sweden), Atlantic heath (Otterburn, UK), wet grassland (Wageningen, Netherlands), semi-natural temperate grassland (Linden, Germany), East European steppe (Pusztaszer, Hungary) and Mediterranean garigue (Mt. Vermion, Greece). To extend the range of temperature and humidity experienced locally during the investigation period, soil microclimates were manipulated, and at each site 14 plots were established representing selected combinations of 6 temperature and 6 moisture levels. The investigated soils divided into two groups: mineral grassland soils that were precipitation fed (garigue, wet grassland, seminatural grassland, steppe), and wet organic soils that were groundwater fed (heath, tundra). Effects of the nematofauna on the microflora were found in the mineral soils, where correlations among nematode metabolic activity as calculated from a metabolic model, and microbial activity parameters as indicated by Biolog and ergosterol measurements, were significantly positive. Correlations with bacterial activity were stronger and more consistent. Microbial parameters, in turn, were significantly correlated with the size of the soil nitrogen pools NH4, NO3, and Norganic. Furthermore, model results suggested that there were remarkable direct effects of nematodes on soil nitrogen status. Calculated monthly nematode excretion contributed temporarily up to 27% of soluble soil nitrogen, depending on the site and the microclimate. No significant correlation among nematodes and microbial parameters, or nitrogen pools, were found in the wet organic soils. The data show that the nematofauna can under favourable conditions affect soil nitrogen status in mineral grassland soils both directly by excretion of N, and indirectly by regulating microbial activity. This suggests that the differences in nitrogen availability observed in such natural grasslands partly reflect differences in the activity of their indigenous nematofauna.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-61
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


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