Special Issue "Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health"

A special issue of Insects (ISSN 2075-4450).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Kyle Wickings
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Entomology, Cornell University, 630 West North Street, Barton Lab, Geneva, NY 14456, USA
Interests: soil animal ecology; soil biogeochemistry; root herbivore ecology and management; belowground biological control
Dr. Katalin Szlavecz
Website
Co-Guest Editor
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
Interests: diversity and ecology of soil invertebrates; soil biogeochemical cycling; urban ecosystems; and invasive species

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There has been long-standing interest in better understanding the role of soil arthropods in the monitoring and management of soil health. Soil arthropods are highly sensitive to land-use change and soil management, and thus, they have great potential as indicators of change in soil conditions.  Additionally, through their involvement in nutrient cycling, soil organic matter formation, soil engineering, and biological pest control, soil-dwelling arthropods can contribute broadly to the biogeochemical characteristics and overall suppressiveness of soil. Alternatively, as plant pests, root-feeding arthropods can also influence feedback between plant and soil systems that may ultimately result in changes to soil health status. Despite this awareness, many knowledge gaps remain regarding the mechanistic underpinnings of how soil arthropods govern such processes. Soil health benchmarks and soil biological characteristics often operate over different timescales, and linkages between the two are often difficult to detect. This challenge is also magnified by the fact that many arthropod-mediated effects on soil are either altered by or routed through their interactions with soil microbes. These deficits in mechanistic knowledge are also hindered further by a lag in the development of methods for the detection and monitoring of soil animals.

Recent studies have improved our understanding of the biology and ecology of soil arthropods, along with our ability to monitor and manage belowground arthropod communities for the purpose of enhancing soil and plant health. In this Special Issue, we invite submissions of original research papers, review articles, and perspectives to stimulate discussion and future research efforts across four different areas of soil arthropod research:

  • techniques (e.g., chemical, molecular, and acoustical) for soil arthropod detection and monitoring
  • mechanistic insight into soil arthropod control over carbon cycling and soil organic matter formation, nutrient cycling and soil fertility, soil bioengineering and physical stability, and pest and disease suppression
  • impacts of herbivorous arthropods on soil health
  • soil arthropods as indicators of soil health

Dr. Kyle Wickings
Dr. Katalin Szlavecz
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Insects is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • soil arthropod ecology
  • microarthropods
  • root herbivory
  • decomposition
  • soil organic matter
  • nutrient cycling
  • biological control
  • bioengineering
  • suppressive soil
  • bioindicators
  • soil health
  • ecosystem services

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Detecting Soil Microarthropods with a Camera-Supported Trap
Insects 2020, 11(4), 244; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11040244 - 14 Apr 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
There is an increasing need to monitor activity and population growth of arthropods; however, this is a time-consuming and financially demanding process. Using sensors to detect arthropods in the field can help to follow their dynamics in time. Improving our earlier device, we [...] Read more.
There is an increasing need to monitor activity and population growth of arthropods; however, this is a time-consuming and financially demanding process. Using sensors to detect arthropods in the field can help to follow their dynamics in time. Improving our earlier device, we developed a new camera-supported probe to detect soil microarthropods. An opto-electronic sensor ring detects the caught microarthropod individuals what activates a camera. The camera takes pictures of a specimen when it arrives in the camera chamber. A vacuum device was built into the probe which pumps up the specimen from the probe to a sample container. Here, we describe the construction and operation of the probe. We investigated the precision of the process in a laboratory experiment using living microarthropods and evaluated the accuracy of the probes in a semi-natural investigation when environmental noise was present. Under semi-natural conditions, the percentages of success, i.e., the photographed specimens compared to the caught ones, were between 60% and 70% at the investigated taxa. The automatic camera shooting helped in distinguishing insects from irrelevant detections while collecting the trapped insects allowed species-level determination. This information together serves as a basis for the automatic visual recognition of microarthropod species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of Increasing Topsoil Disturbance on Surface-Active Invertebrate Composition and Abundance under Grazing and Cropping Regimes on Vertisols in North-West New South Wales, Australia
Insects 2020, 11(4), 237; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11040237 - 10 Apr 2020
Abstract
Agricultural intensification practices involve varying degrees of disturbance to the soil ecosystem. This study evaluated six agricultural management regimes with increasing levels of topsoil disturbance, on the composition and abundance of surface-active invertebrates on Vertisols at a sub-catchment scale. Two grazing (native and [...] Read more.
Agricultural intensification practices involve varying degrees of disturbance to the soil ecosystem. This study evaluated six agricultural management regimes with increasing levels of topsoil disturbance, on the composition and abundance of surface-active invertebrates on Vertisols at a sub-catchment scale. Two grazing (native and introduced pastures), and four cropping (combining short and long fallow, with zero and conventional tillage) management regimes were examined. Surface-active invertebrates were collected seasonally with pitfall traps over 2 years (8 seasons), and identified to order, while ants (Formicidae) that comprised 47% of total invertebrates collected, were identified to genera. Season had a significant effect on ant abundance and number of genera recorded with higher abundance and twice the number of genera in summer than all other seasons. Ants, particularly Iridomyrmex, were mainly active in summer, while other invertebrates especially Coleoptera, were more active in winter. Surface-active invertebrates were 30% more abundant in grazing than cropping land use types. Native pasture, with little surface soil disturbance, recorded the highest number of invertebrates, mainly ants, compared to other agricultural management regimes. Coleoptera and Dermaptera were higher in abundance under conventional tillage compared with those agricultural management regimes that disturb the topsoil less. Optimizing surface-active invertebrate activity on Vertisols for most taxa will require reducing topsoil disturbance. However, the research findings also suggest that the impact of agricultural management regimes on invertebrate activity was difficult to predict with any certainty as the three main ant genera, and most abundant invertebrate collected, did not respond in a consistent manner. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Vegetation Pattern Modulates Ground Arthropod Diversity in Semi-Arid Mediterranean Steppes
Insects 2020, 11(1), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11010059 - 18 Jan 2020
Cited by 5
Abstract
The ecological functioning of dryland ecosystems is closely related to the spatial pattern of the vegetation, which is typically structured in patches. Ground arthropods mediate key soil functions and ecological processes, yet little is known about the influence of dryland vegetation pattern on [...] Read more.
The ecological functioning of dryland ecosystems is closely related to the spatial pattern of the vegetation, which is typically structured in patches. Ground arthropods mediate key soil functions and ecological processes, yet little is known about the influence of dryland vegetation pattern on their abundance and diversity. Here, we investigate how patch size and cover, and distance between patches relate to the abundance and diversity of meso-and microarthropods in semi-arid steppes. We found that species richness and abundance of ground arthropods exponentially increase with vegetation cover, patch size, and patch closeness. The communities under vegetation patches mainly respond to patch size, while the communities in the bare-soil interpatches are mostly controlled by the average distance between patches, independently of the concurrent changes in vegetation cover. Large patches seem to play a critical role as reserve and source of ground arthropod diversity. Our results suggest that decreasing vegetation cover and/or changes in vegetation pattern towards small and over-dispersed vegetation patches can fast lead to a significant loss of ground arthropods diversity in drylands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Taxonomic and Functional Response of Millipedes (Diplopoda) to Urban Soil Disturbance in a Metropolitan Area
Insects 2020, 11(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11010025 - 29 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Urbanization, as a major cause of local species extinction and biotic homogenization, drastically alters soil life. Millipedes are a key group of soil macrodetritivores and significantly influence soil quality, mainly through their essential role in nutrient cycling. Therefore, studying their taxonomic and functional [...] Read more.
Urbanization, as a major cause of local species extinction and biotic homogenization, drastically alters soil life. Millipedes are a key group of soil macrodetritivores and significantly influence soil quality, mainly through their essential role in nutrient cycling. Therefore, studying their taxonomic and functional responses to urban disturbance is crucial, as they contribute to the provision of several soil-related ecosystem services in cities. Differently degraded rural, urban forests and other woody patches (e.g., parks, gardens, and cemeteries) were sampled on Buda and Pest sides of the Budapest metropolitan area divided by the Danube River. We measured the most relevant physical and chemical properties of topsoil to characterize habitats. We applied an urbanization index based on vegetation cover and built-up area of the study sites to quantify urban intensity. The composition of the assemblages was determined by the division of the city along the Danube. Urbanization was associated with a reduction in species and functional richness of millipedes on both sides of Budapest. β diversity and species turnover increased with urban intensity. Urban disturbance was the main driver in assembly of taxonomic and functional community composition. A new species (Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus (Wood, 1864)) to the fauna of Budapest was found. Detritivore invertebrates depend on leaf litter and other dead organic matter types, therefore microsites providing these resources greatly improve their survival. Due to increasing urban disturbance, it is recommended to provide appropriate detritus and shelter sites as part of the management of green spaces in order to maintain species richness, abundance, and function of species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Effects of Detritivores on Nutrient Dynamics and Corn Biomass in Mesocosms
Insects 2019, 10(12), 453; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects10120453 - 13 Dec 2019
Abstract
(1) Background: Strategies aimed at managing freshwater eutrophication should be based on practices that consider cropland invertebrates, climatic change, and soil nutrient cycling. Specifically, detritivores play a crucial role in the biogeochemical processes of soil through their consumptive and burrowing activities. Here, we [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Strategies aimed at managing freshwater eutrophication should be based on practices that consider cropland invertebrates, climatic change, and soil nutrient cycling. Specifically, detritivores play a crucial role in the biogeochemical processes of soil through their consumptive and burrowing activities. Here, we evaluated the effectiveness of increasing detritivore abundance as a strategy for nutrient management under varied rainfall. (2) Methods: We manipulated soil macroinvertebrate abundance and rainfall amount in an agricultural mesocosms. We then measured the phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon levels within the soil, corn, invertebrates, and soil solution. (3) Results: Increasing detritivore abundance in our soil significantly increased corn biomass by 2.49 g (p < 0.001), reduced weed growth by 18.2% (p < 0.001), and decreased soil solution nitrogen and total organic carbon (p < 0.05) and volume by 31.03 mL (p < 0.001). Detritivore abundance also displayed a significant interaction effect with rainfall treatment to influence soil total P (p = 0.0019), total N (p < 0.001), and total C (p = 0.0146). (4) Conclusions: Soil detritivores play an important role in soil nutrient cycling and soil health. Incorporating soil macroinvertebrate abundance into management strategies for agricultural soil may increase soil health of agroecosystems, preserve freshwater ecosystems, and protect the valuable services they both provide for humans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Soil Health and Arthropods: From Complex System to Worthwhile Investigation
Insects 2020, 11(1), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11010054 - 16 Jan 2020
Cited by 10
Abstract
The dramatic increase in soil degradation in the last few decades has led to the need to identify methods to define not only soil quality but also, in a holistic approach, soil health. In the past twenty years, indices based on living communities [...] Read more.
The dramatic increase in soil degradation in the last few decades has led to the need to identify methods to define not only soil quality but also, in a holistic approach, soil health. In the past twenty years, indices based on living communities have been proposed alongside the already proven physical-chemical methods. Among them, some soil invertebrates have been included in monitoring programs as bioindicators of soil quality. Being an important portion of soil fauna, soil arthropods are involved in many soil processes such as organic matter decomposition and translocation, nutrient cycling, microflora activity regulation and bioturbation. Many studies have reported the use of soil arthropods to define soil quality; among taxa, some have been explored more in depth, typically Acari and Collembola, while generally less abundant groups, such as Palpigradi or Embioptera, have not been investigated much. This paper aims to evaluate and compare the use of different soil microarthropod taxa in soil degradation/quality studies to highlight which groups are the most reported for soil monitoring and which are the most sensitive to soil degradation. We have decided not to include the two most present and abundant taxa, Acari and Collembola, in this paper in consideration of the vast amount of existing literature and focus the discussion on the other microarthropod groups. We reported some studies for each taxon highlighting the use of the group as soil quality indicator. A brief section reporting some indices based on soil microarthropods is proposed at the end of this specific discussion. This paper can be considered as a reference point in the use of soil arthropods to estimate soil quality and health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health)
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