New publication on effects of drought on soil microarthropods in a semi-arid ecosystem in PLOS ONE

Flórián N, Ladányi M, Ittzés A, Kröel-Dulay G, Ónodi G, Mucsi M, et al. (2019) Effects of single and repeated drought on soil microarthropods in a semi-arid ecosystem depend more on timing and duration than drought severity. PLoS ONE 14(7): e0219975. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0219975

Soil moisture is one of the most important factors affecting soil biota. In arid and semi-arid ecosystems, soil mesofauna is adapted to temporary drought events, but, until now, we have had a limited understanding of the impacts of the different magnitudes and frequencies of drought predicted to occur according to future climate change scenarios. The present study focuses on how springtails and mites respond to simulated repeated drought events of different magnitudes in a field experiment in a Hungarian semi-arid sand steppe. Changes in soil arthropod activities were monitored with soil trapping over two years in a sandy soil. In the first year (2014), we applied an extreme drought pretreatment, and in the consecutive year, we applied less devastating treatments (severe drought, moderate drought, water addition) to these sites. In the first year, the extreme drought pretreatment tended to have a negative effect (either significantly or not significantly) on the capture of all Collembola groups, whereas all mite groups increased in activity density. However, in the consecutive year, between the extreme drought and control treatments, we only detected differences in soil microbial biomass. In the cases of severe drought, moderate drought and water addition, we did not find considerable changes across the microarthropods, except in the case of epedaphic Collembola. In the cases of the water addition and drought treatments, the duration and timing of the manipulation seemed to be more important for soil mesofauna than their severity (i.e., the level of soil moisture decrease). We suggest that in these extreme habitats, soil mesofauna are able to survive extreme conditions, and their populations recover rapidly, but they may not be able to cope with very long drought periods.

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