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Microarthropod abundance data of a drought experiment comparing organic and conventional farming

Citation

Meyer, Svenja (2022), Microarthropod abundance data of a drought experiment comparing organic and conventional farming, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.80gb5mkr3

Abstract

In Central Europe summer droughts are increasing in frequency which threatens production and biodiversity in agroecosystems. The potential of different farming systems to mitigate detrimental drought effects on soil animals is largely unknown. We investigated the effects of simulated drought on the abundance and community composition of soil microarthropods (Collembola, Oribatida, Meso­‑, Pro‑ and Astigmata) in winter wheat fields under long-term conventional and organic farming in the DOK trial, Switzerland. We simulated drought by excluding 65% of the ambient precipitation during the wheat growing season from March to June 2017. The abundance of Collembola and Oribatida declined more consistently in conventionally compared to organically managed fields under simulated drought. The abundance of Collembola as well as Meso‑, Pro‑ and Astigmata, but not the abundance of Oribatida, increased in deeper soil layers due to simulated drought, suggesting vertical migration as drought avoidance strategy. The species composition of Oribatida communities, but not of Collembola communities, differed significantly between drought treatments as well as between farming systems. Soil carbon content was a major factor structuring Oribatida communities. Our results suggest that organic farming buffers negative effects of drought on soil microarthropods, presumably due to higher soil carbon content, and associated higher soil moisture and improved soil structure. This potential of organic farming systems to mitigate consequences of future droughts on soil biodiversity is promising and needs further exploration across larger climatic and spatial scales and should be extended to other groups of soil biota.