Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Fine scale determinants of soil litter fauna on a Mediterranean mixed oak forest invaded by the exotic soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Abstract

There is growing recognition of the importance of soil fauna for modulating nutrient cycling processes such as litter decomposition. However, little is known about the drivers promoting changes in soil fauna abundance on a local scale. We explored this gap of knowledge in a mixed oak forest of Southern Spain, which is under decline due to the invasion of the exotic soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi. Meso-invertebrate abundance found in soil litter was estimated at the suborder level. We then explored their statistical correlations with respect to light availability, tree and litter characteristics, and P. cinnamomi abundance. Oribatida and Entomobryomporpha were the most abundant groups of Acari and Collembola, respectively. According to their trophic level, predator and detritivore abundances were positively correlated while detritivores were, in turn, positively correlated with pathogen abundance and negatively influenced by light availability and tree defoliation. These overall trends differed between groups. Among detritivores, Diplopoda preferred highly decomposed litter while Oribatida and Psocoptera preferred darker environments and Poduromorpha were selected for environments with lower tree defoliation. Our results show the predominant role of light availability in influencing litter fauna abundances at local scales and suggest that the invasive soil-borne pathogen P. cinnamomi is integrated in these complex relationships.