Within-trophic group interactions of bacterivorous nematode species and their effects on the bacterial communicty and nitrogen mineralization

Postma-Blaauw, M.B.; Vries, F.T. de; Goede, R.G.M. de; Bloem, J.; Faber, J.H.; Brussaard, L.


Knowledge of the interactions between organisms within trophic groups is important for an understanding of the role of biodiversity in ecosystem functioning. We hypothesised that interactions between bacterivorous nematodes of different life history strategies would affect nematode population development, bacterial community composition and activity, resulting in increased N mineralization. A microcosm experiment was conducted using three nematode species (Bursilla monhystera, Acrobeloides nanus and Plectus parvus). All the nematode species interacted with each other, but the nature and effects of these interactions depended on the specific species combination. The interaction between B. monhystera and A. nanus was asymmetrically competitive (0,–), whereas that between B. monhystera and P. parvus, and also A. nanus and P. parvus was contramensal (+, –). The interaction that affected microcosm properties the most was the interaction between B. monhystera and P. parvus. This interaction affected the bacterial community composition, increased the bacterial biomass and increased soil N mineralization. B. monhystera and P. parvus have the most different life history strategies, whereas A. nanus has a life history strategy intermediate to those of B. monhystera and P. parvus. We suggest that the difference in life history strategies between species of the same trophic group is of importance for their communal effect on soil ecosystem processes. Our results support the idiosyncrasy hypothesis on the role of biodiversity in ecosystem functioning.