Author(s): Krashevska V, Sandmann D, Maraun M, Scheu S
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Abstract The structure and functioning of decomposer systems heavily relies on soil moisture. However, this has been primarily studied in temperate ecosystems; little is known about how soil moisture affects the microfaunal food web in tropical regions. This lack of knowledge is surprising, since the microfaunal food web controls major ecosystem processes. To evaluate the role of precipitation in the structure of soil food web components (i.e., microorganisms and testate amoebae), we excluded water input by rain in montane rainforests at different altitudes in Ecuador. Rain exclusion strongly reduced microbial biomass and respiration by about 50 \%, and fungal biomass by 23 \%. In testate amoebae, rain exclusion decreased the density of live cells by 91 \% and caused a shift in species composition at each of the altitudes studied, with ergosterol concentrations, microbial biomass, and water content explaining 25 \% of the variation in species data. The results document that reduced precipitation negatively affects soil microorganisms, but that the response of testate amoebae markedly exceeds that of bacteria and fungi. This suggests that, in addition to food, low precipitation directly affects the community structure of testate amoebae, with the effect being more pronounced at lower altitudes. Overall, the results show that microorganisms and testate amoebae rapidly respond to a reduction in precipitation, with testate amoebae-representatives of higher trophic levels-being more sensitive. The results imply that precipitation and soil moisture in tropical rainforests are the main factors regulating decomposition and nutrient turnover.
This article was published in Oecologia
and referenced in Entomology, Ornithology & Herpetology: Current Research