Observational and simulated evidence of ecological shifts within the soil nematode community of agroecosystems under conventional and organic farming


†Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: christian.mulder@rivm.nl


  • 1Soil sustainability implies a sufficient diversity and abundance of organisms to perform soil functions and to resist environmental stress. Previous studies have shown the importance of functional biodiversity for soil organisms.
  • 2Soil samples have been collected within the framework of a long-term monitoring programme in the Netherlands. Nematological and microbiological techniques were combined to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of possible below-ground effects of land management.
  • 3A possible bias due to stochastic circumstances was investigated. The Mantel test showed that the diversity at species level is largely related to air temperature, but at genus level the effect of temperature disappears. No direct influence of rainfall on the soil biodiversity was found in our model.
  • 4To extrapolate our data to a national level, habitat–response relationships for soil organisms have been derived. Generalized linear models (GLMs) and Monte Carlo simulation allowed the estimation of the probability of occurrence at a given abundance for 95 nematode genera.
  • 5Our study describes the influence of abiotic conditions and land use intensity on the composition of nematode communities in grasslands on sand. The results obtained reveal a major influence of pH and livestock density on the diversity of the nematode community at both taxonomic levels as well as at different trophic levels (feeding habits). The presence and abundance of soil nematodes decrease with cattle pressure.
  • 6Functional diversity decreases with increasing management intensity. It is shown that the Shannon diversities of bacterial feeding nematodes and fungal feeding nematodes are strictly related to cattle pressure, whereas the bacterial biomass occurring under organic farming scores higher than in other farming systems.