Impacts of Soil Faunal Community Composition on Model Grassland Ecosystems

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Science  18 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5593, pp. 615-618
DOI: 10.1126/science.1075805

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Human impacts, including global change, may alter the composition of soil faunal communities, but consequences for ecosystem functioning are poorly understood. We constructed model grassland systems in the Ecotron controlled environment facility and manipulated soil community composition through assemblages of different animal body sizes. Plant community composition, microbial and root biomass, decomposition rate, and mycorrhizal colonization were all markedly affected. However, two key ecosystem processes, aboveground net primary productivity and net ecosystem productivity, were surprisingly resistant to these changes. We hypothesize that positive and negative faunal-mediated effects in soil communities cancel each other out, causing no net ecosystem effects.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: m.a.bradford{at}

  • Present address: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, SN2 1ET, UK.

  • Present address: Plant Research Department, Risø National Laboratory, Postbox 49, Roskilde, DK-4000, Denmark.

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