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Open AccessArticle

Effects of Livestock Pressure and Vegetation Cover on the Spatial and Temporal Structure of Soil Microarthropod Communities in Iberian Rangelands

1
Department of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, University of Parma, Viale delle Scienze 11/A, 43124 Parma, Italy
2
GeoEnvironmental Research Group, University of Extremadura, Avda. Universidad s/n, 10071 Cáceres, Spain
3
Instituto de Geografía, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Avda. Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Santiago de Chile 7820436, Chile
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(6), 628; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11060628
Received: 27 March 2020 / Revised: 22 May 2020 / Accepted: 27 May 2020 / Published: 2 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Relationship between Forest Biodiversity and Soil Functions)
Forests, including their soils, play an important role since they represent a large reservoir of biodiversity. Current studies show that the diversity of soil fauna provides multiple ecosystem functions and services across biomes. However, anthropogenic practices often pose a threat to soil fauna because of changes in land use and soil mismanagement. In these terms, rangelands in the southwest of Spain present several problems of soil degradation related to livestock activity and soil erosion, the intensity of which compromises the soil fauna’s functions in the ecosystem. Therefore, the aim of this study is to evaluate the response of community metrics and the spatial distribution of soil microarthropods to livestock activity and vegetation in such ecosystems. A photo interpretation analysis of an experimental catchment used as a study area was developed to identify and classify the intensity of livestock pressure. A total of 150 soil samples were collected throughout 2018. Soil biological (CO2 efflux) and physical-chemical parameters (pH, bulk density, organic matter, and water contents), and such meteorological variables as precipitation, temperature, and evapotranspiration were considered as variables affecting the composition of microarthropod communities in terms of taxa diversity, abundances, and their adaptation to soil environment (evaluated by QBS-ar index). Results showed higher abundance of microarthropods and higher adaptation to soil environment outside the influence of trees rather than beneath tree canopies. Moreover, the classification of livestock pressure revealed by the photo interpretation analysis showed low correlations with community structure, as well as with the occurrence of well-adapted microarthropod groups that were found less frequently in areas with evidence of intense livestock activity. Furthermore, abundances and adaptations followed different spatial patterns. Due to future climate changes and increasing anthropogenic pressure, it is necessary to continue the study of soil fauna communities to determine their degree of sensitivity to such changes. View Full-Text
Keywords: arthropod-based soil quality; community structure; environmental filtering; remote sensed image analysis; spatial heterogeneity; morphological adaptation arthropod-based soil quality; community structure; environmental filtering; remote sensed image analysis; spatial heterogeneity; morphological adaptation
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Lozano Fondón, C.; González, J.B.; Pulido Fernández, M.; Remelli, S.; Lozano-Parra, J.; Menta, C. Effects of Livestock Pressure and Vegetation Cover on the Spatial and Temporal Structure of Soil Microarthropod Communities in Iberian Rangelands. Forests 2020, 11, 628.

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