Long-term nitrogen addition shifts the soil nematode community to bacterivore-dominated and reduces its ecological maturity in a subalpine forest

Soil Biology and Biochemistry
By: , and 



Nitrogen deposition from anthropogenic sources is a global problem that reaches even the most remote ecosystems. Responses belowground vary by ecosystem, and have feedbacks to geochemical processes, including carbon storage. A long-term nitrogen addition study in a subalpine forest has shown carbon loss over time, atypical for a forest ecosystem. Loss of microbial biomass is likely linked to lower soil carbon, but the mechanism behind this is still unknown. One possible explanation is through increased turnover due to grazing by soil fauna. Because nematodes occupy many trophic levels and are sensitive to trophic and environmental changes, assessing their communities helps reveal belowground responses. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that long-term nitrogen fertilization affects nematode community structure and maturity beneath coniferous forests in the Rocky Mountains, indicating a faster cycling, bacterial-driven system. We identified and enumerated nematodes by trophic group and family from experimental plots. Total nematode abundance was 40–96% greater in fertilized plots compared to the control, but richness, diversity, and ecological maturity were lower. The differences in abundance were driven by opportunistic bacterivores (e.g., Rhabditidae) and plant parasites (e.g., Tylenchidae), which made up 23 and 13% of the community in fertilized compared to 7 and 5% in control plots, respectively. Nematode maturity indices showed that the nematode food webwas enriched (indicating high nutrient/resource status) and structured (all trophic levels present, including long-lived predators) in both treatments, but significantly more enriched in the fertilized treatment. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling of the relative abundance of nematode families demonstrated that nematode community composition differed between treatments, driven largely by opportunistic bacterivores (e.g., Rhabditidae) in the fertilized plots. The mechanism of the aboveground–belowground link between nitrogen deposition and nematode community composition is likely through increased microbial turnover, and sustained high-quality food for microbial grazing nematodes.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Long-term nitrogen addition shifts the soil nematode community to bacterivore-dominated and reduces its ecological maturity in a subalpine forest
Series title Soil Biology and Biochemistry
DOI 10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.12.007
Volume 130
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 8 p.
First page 177
Last page 184
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table