Mite community composition across a European transect and its relationships to variation in other components of soil biodiversity

Dirilgen, T.; Arroyo, J.; Dimmers, W.J.; Faber, J.; Stone, D.; Martins da Silva, P.; Carvalho, F.; Schmelz, R.; Griffiths, B.S.; Francisco, R.; Creamer, R.E.; Sousa, J.P.; Bolger, T.


The sustainable use of soils requires the protection of soil biodiversity because of its importance in the delivery of ecosystems services. However, no effective indicator exists which would allow assessment of the current state of biodiversity and is sensitive to change. This study, which is a component of the EcoFINDERS project, examines the use of mites (Acari) as a possible biological indicator of soil community composition. Thirty-six sites were sampled across 10 European countries spanning four bio-climatic zones (Alpine, Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean) and 3 land uses (arable, grassland and forestry) for both biotic and abiotic variables. Results show a significant effect of bio-climatic zone on mite communities; in particular, the Mediterranean region had a rather distinct composition. Land use type significantly affected mite community composition and there was a distinct association with forestry. Cross-taxon congruence among soil taxa was variable and generally weak. Procrustes analysis showed that there was little similarity between the patterns of variation in mite community composition and those of other taxonomic groups (Collembola, Enchytraeidae, Nematoda and microbes). Mite and Collembola communities had the strongest correlation ( r= 0.4316, p