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Relationships between soil fauna communities and humus forms: Response to forest dynamics and solar radiation

Abstract : This study investigated the responses of soil animal communities, soil functioning and humus forms to forest dynamics and solar radiation. We examined changes in invertebrate communities and soil features in two subalpine spruce forests (Eastern Italian Alps, Trento) growing on a calcareous bedrock, with different sun exposures (north and south), each forming a chronosequence of three developmental phases: clearing, regeneration stand (25-year-old trees) and mature stand (170-year-old trees). Our results indicate that the two forest sites differed in solar energy input, soil chemical properties and the relationships between forest dynamics and animal communities. In the north-facing site, soil fauna communities were very similar in the three forest developmental phases. Conversely, in the south-facing site, the composition of invertebrate communities and the diversity of zoological groups varied greatly among developmental phases. The highest abundance of total invertebrates, and mites in particular, occurred in the south-facing mature stands while the south-facing regeneration stand was characterised by higher densities of Collembola, Chilopoda, Symphyla, Protura and Aranea. The structure of communities in clearings was the same as in regeneration stands but with lower invertebrate abundance. Humus forms and soil features changed with developmental phases in both the south- and north-facing sites, although variations were more pronounced in the southern exposure. Mature stands were characterised by high levels of soil organic carbon and nitrogen, C/N values and low pH, the clearings and regeneration stands being characterised by a greater release of mineral nitrogen. The diversity of zoological groups (Shannon–Wiener index) was linearly correlated to soil pH, Humus Index, the amount of organic carbon and the species richness of herbaceous plants. Our results about the composition and the diversity of invertebrate communities are consistent with the observations of other authors studying south-exposed forests growing on different bedrock types, indicating that such relationships are widespread. The higher densities of invertebrates in the south-facing site may be attributed to higher solar radiation, and the positive correlation observed between total soil fauna abundance and solar energy supports the “more individuals” hypothesis that assumes a positive relationship between the number of individuals and energy availability. Possible ways by which forest dynamics control soil invertebrate communities are discussed.
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Sandrine Salmon, Nadia Artuso, Lorenzo Frizzera, Roberto Zampedri. Relationships between soil fauna communities and humus forms: Response to forest dynamics and solar radiation. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Elsevier, 2008, 40 (7), pp.1707-1715. ⟨10.1016/j.soilbio.2008.02.007⟩. ⟨mnhn-02925895⟩

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