A framework for soil food web diagnostics : extension of the nematode faunal analysis concept

Ferris, H.; Bongers, T.; Goede, R.G.M. de


Nematodes, the earth's most abundant metazoa, are ubiquitous in the soil environment. They are sufficiently large to be identifiable by light microscopy and sufficiently small to inhabit water films surrounding soil particles. They aggregate around and in food sources. They include component taxa of the soil food web at several trophic levels. They can be categorized into functional guilds whose members respond similarly to food web enrichment and to environmental perturbation and recovery. Indices derived through nematode faunal analysis provide bioindicators for disturbance of the soil environment and condition of the soil food web. We enhance the resolution of faunal analyses by providing a weighting system for the indicator importance of the presence and abundance of each functional guild in relation to enrichment and structure of the food web. Graphical representations of food web structure, based on nematode faunal analyses, allow diagnostic interpretation of its condition. Simple ratios of the weighted abundance of representatives of specific functional guilds provide useful indicators of food web structure, enrichment, and decomposition channels