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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - Soil Biology & Biochemistry

Relationship between Food Resource, Soil Physical Condition, and Invertebrates in Pastoral Soils


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 76 No. 5, p. 1644-1654
    Received: Nov 4, 2011
    Published: September 12, 2012

    * Corresponding author(s): nicoleschon@gmail.com
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  1. N.L. Schon *a,
  2. A.D. Mackayb and
  3. M.A. Minorc
  1. a Ecology, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
    b AgResearch Grasslands Private Bag 11008, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
    c Ecology, Institute of Natural Resources Massey University Private Bag 11222 Palmerston North 4442 New Zealand


Pastoral agriculture influences both the food resources available for the soil food-web, and soil physical conditions. This study explored the relationship between food resources, soil physical condition, and soil invertebrates in 42 grazed pastures across different soils in New Zealand. The response of invertebrates to food resources and soil physical conditions was associated with both the size class of invertebrates (i.e., earthworm vs. nematode) and functional group (i.e., bacterial-feeding vs. plant-feeding). Changes in soil pore size, a surrogate for habitable pores, was correlated with the invertebrate community across the soils in the study, more so than potential food resources from plant litter and dung calculated from livestock numbers. Overall, management practices which improve habitable pores in the soil are beneficial not only for plant growth, but also for sustaining the diversity and abundance of the biological community which contribute to the soil services required for pasture agriculture. An invertebrate indicator, that included the abundance thresholds of each invertebrate group at which their activity would be insufficient to sustain the soil processes, would give land managers a tool to identify deficiencies in the invertebrate community and assess the implications of these deficiencies on the ability of the soil to provide the necessary ecosystem services.

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Copyright © 2012. Copyright © by the Soil Science Society of America, Inc.