Bacterial traits, organism mass, and numerical abundance in the detrital soil food web of Dutch agricultural grasslands




This paper compares responses to environmental stress of the ecophysiological traits of organisms in the detrital soil food webs of grasslands in the Netherlands, using the relationship between average body mass M and numerical abundance N. The microbial biomass and biodiversity of belowground fauna were measured in 110 grasslands on sand, 85 of them farmed under organic, conventional and intensive management. Bacterial cell volume and abundance and electrophoretic DNA bands as well as bacterial activity in the form of either metabolic quotient (qCO2) or microbial quotient (Cmic/Corg) predicted the response of microorganisms to stress. For soil fauna, the logarithm of body mass log(M) was approximately linearly related to the logarithm of numerical abundance log(N) with slope near −1, and the regression slope and the proportion of predatory species were lower in intensive agroecosystems (more reduced substrates with higher energy content). Linear regression of log(N) on log(M) had slope not far from −3/4. The approach to monitoring data illustrated in this paper could be useful in assessing land-use quality.