Above- and belowground insect herbivores differentially affect soil nematode communities in species-rich plant communities

Deyn, G.B. de; Ruijven, J. van; Raaijmakers, C.E.; Ruiter, P.C. de; Putten, W.H. van der


Interactions between above- and belowground invertebrate herbivores alter plant diversity, however, little is known on how these effects may influence higher trophic level organisms belowground. Here we explore whether above- and belowground invertebrate herbivores which alter plant community diversity and biomass, in turn affect soil nematode communities. We test the hypotheses that insect herbivores 1) alter soil nematode diversity, 2) stimulate bacterial-feeding and 3) reduce plant-feeding nematode abundances. In a full factorial outdoor mesocosm experiment we introduced grasshoppers (aboveground herbivores), wireworms (belowground herbivores) and a diverse soil nematode community to species-rich model plant communities. After two years, insect herbivore effects on nematode diversity and on abundance of herbivorous, bacterivorous, fungivorous and omni-carnivorous nematodes were evaluated in relation to plant community composition. Wireworms did not affect nematode diversity despite enhanced plant diversity, while grasshoppers, which did not affect plant diversity, reduced nematode diversity. Although grasshoppers and wireworms caused contrasting shifts in plant species dominance, they did not affect abundances of decomposer nematodes at any trophic level. Primary consumer nematodes were, however, strongly promoted by wireworms, while community root biomass was not altered by the insect herbivores. Overall, interaction effects of wireworms and grasshoppers on the soil nematodes were not observed, and we found no support for bottom-up control of the nematodes. However, our results show that above- and belowground insect herbivores may facilitate root-feeding rather than decomposer nematodes and that this facilitation appears to be driven by shifts in plant species composition. Moreover, the addition of nematodes strongly suppressed shoot biomass of several forb species and reduced grasshopper abundance. Thus, our results suggest that nematode feedback effects on plant community composition, due to plant and herbivore parasitism, may strongly depend on the presence of insect herbivores