A field experiment was established to examine the effects of temperature and moisture modifications on the nematode fauna of a semiarid grassland. Several combinations of drying, wetting, warming and cooling were applied to plots and compared with untreated control plots. The experiment was performed from July to October 1996. A significant shift was observed in the structure of the nematode fauna between late summer and early autumn. This shift was manifested in the disappearance of four rare genera; Ecumenicus, Eucephalobus, Paraphelenchus and Pungentus. A significant decrease was found in the density of Acrobeles, Aphelenchoides, Ditylenchus and Prismatolaimus; in addition there was a significant increase in the density of Cephalobus, Helicotylenchus, Paratylenchus and Tylenchorhynchus. Community structural change was represented by an initial decrease in nematode generic richness of 30–50%, and in a statistically significant decrease of nematode diversity in the control and all treated plots. Thereafter, emergence of a new community was demonstrated. Data show that temperature manipulation was the main factor to influence nematode diversity, Maturity Index, and Plant Parasite Index. However, nematode population density was influenced predominantly by the soil moisture content. Coenological analysis of soil nematode fauna appears to be a useful tool for the biological monitoring of the effects of global change on semiarid grasslands.
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