The importance of the biodiversity of soil biota in arid ecosystems

TitleThe importance of the biodiversity of soil biota in arid ecosystems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsWhitford WG
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Date Published1996
Accession NumberJRN00224
Keywordsants, diversity, functional groups, keystone species, microarthropods, nematodes, protozoans, termites

The importance of soil biota in maintaining ecosytem integrity is examined by a review of studies of soil processes and soil biota in arid ecosystems. In decomposition and mineralization processes, there is a temporal succession of microarthropod and nematode species. Tydeid mites are keystone species in the early stages of decomposition. Soil pore neck size variation affects the spatial distribution of soil biota and requires that species differ in size to provide efficient processing of organic matter. In arid ecosystems, the sub-set of soil biota that is active at any point in time is determined by the soil water potential and soil temperature. The structure of soil microarthropod assemblages is similar in several arid regions of the world and abundance and diversity are directly related to quantity of litter accumulations and soil organic matter. The unique life histories and behavioural characteristics of desert soil macrofauna (termites and ants) determine the effects of these organisms on soil properties and soil formation. The soil biota, by affecting the spatial and temporal distribution of essential sesources (water and nutrients), are essential to the maintenance of the ecosystem integrity of arid ecosystems.