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Microarthropoda abundance and background data for the mesocosm experiment

Cite this dataset

Gergócs, Veronika et al. (2022). Microarthropoda abundance and background data for the mesocosm experiment [Dataset]. Dryad.


Soil microarthropods have a pivotal role in soil nitrogen cycling in that they affect microbial decomposers. A high abundance of microarthropods may increase the mobility of inorganic nitrogen ions in the soil, mainly in nitrogen-limited habitats. However, it is difficult to study ecological processes with small-sized, soil-dwelling arthropods. The effects of soil microarthropods on nitrogen cycling have mainly been studied in laboratory microcosm experiments. Therefore, we face many practical issues in investigating these effects under field conditions that remain to be resolved.

We developed an open-field mesocosm setup with growing plants. In a two-part experiment, spring wheat and grass species were grown in chernozem and sandy soils. Leached ammonium and nitrate ions were measured with percolation lysimeters. Half of the mesocosms included natural assemblages, and the other half included less abundant Acari and Collembola assemblages. The application of nitrogen fertilisation assured differences in nitrogen sources.

We found a large difference in ammonium and nitrate leaching between the two soil types. In chernozem soil, the leached ion concentrations were higher in mesocosms with more abundant mite and springtail assemblages. The expected patterns were less pronounced in sandy soil. Adding nitrogen-fertiliser did not modify the effects of soil microarthropods.

Open-field mesocosms are promising for studying the role of soil-dwelling mesofauna in ecological processes. We solved the problem of keeping mesofauna abundance lower in treated plots than that in control plots. Plants successfully grew in our semi-closed systems with functioning percolation lysimeters. The use of the equipment in the experiments in this study helped reveal that the role of soil-dwelling microarthropods in nitrogen cycling depends on the soil type and not on the application of nitrogen fertiliser.


See in the article: Detangling ecosystem services: Open field manipulation of soil-dwelling microarthropods provides new opportunities to investigate their effects on nitrogen cycling published in Ecology and Evolution.

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Premium Postdoctoral Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Award: PPD2018-1/2021