Functional aspects of soil animal diversity in agricultural grasslands

  • Published source details Bardgett R.D. & Cook R. (1998) Functional aspects of soil animal diversity in agricultural grasslands. Applied Soil Ecology, 10, 263-276.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Maintain upland heath/moorland

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Reduce chemical inputs in grassland management

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Maintain upland heath/moorland

    A 1998 review of how soil animals change according to management of agricultural grasslands (Bardgett & Cook 1998) found one UK study that assessed the effects of lower grazing pressure on soil animals in upland grasslands in Cumbria (Bardgett et al. 1993). It found numbers of springtails (Collembola) and mites (Acari) were lower with less sheep grazing. For example, there were over 60,000 springtails/m2 on heavily grazed land, compared to around 40,000/m2 on moderately or lightly grazed grassland, and 20-30,000/m2 on ungrazed land. Removing sheep for two years rapidly reduced numbers of springtails.


  2. Reduce chemical inputs in grassland management

    A 1998 review of how soil animals, especially nematodes (Nematoda) and microarthropods, change according to management of agricultural grasslands (Bardgett & Cook 1998) found two studies showing a higher density of nematodes or microarthropods in organically managed or low input grasslands, compared to intensively managed grasslands with conventional chemical inputs (Siepel 1996, Yeates et al. 1997). One also found higher numbers of microarthropod species on low input grasslands (Siepel 1996). This is in contrast to four studies that found that adding mineral fertilizer can increase numbers of nematodes in the short term (Edwards & Lofty 1969, Coulson & Butterfield 1978, King & Hutchinson 1980, Bardgett et al. 1993), although one study found reduced abundance and diversity of microarthropods after nitrogen fertilizer was added to grassland (Siepel & van de Bund 1988). The authors argue that soil communities are functionally different under low input systems.


    Additional references:

    Edwards C.A. & Lofty J.R. (1969) The influence of agricultural practices on soil micro-arthropod populations. Pages 237-246 in: J.R. Sheal (ed.) The Soil Ecosystem, Systematics Association, London.

    Coulson J.C. & Butterfield J.E.L. (1978) An investigation of the biotic factors determining the rates of plant decomposition on blanket bog. Journal of Ecology, 66, 631-650.

    King L.K. & Hutchinson K.J. (1980) The effects of superphosphate and stocking intensity on grassland microarthropods. Journal of Applied Ecology, 17, 581-591.

    Siepel H. & van de Bund C.F. (1988) The influence of management practices on the microarthropod community of grassland. Pedobiologia, 31, 339-354.

    Bardgett R.D., Frankland J.C. & Whittaker J.B. (1993) The effects of agricultural practices on the soil biota of some upland grasslands. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 45, 25-45.

    Siepel H. (1996) Biodiversity of soil microarthropods: the filtering of species. Biodiversity and Conservation, 5, 251-260.

    Yeates G.W., Bardgett R.D., Cook R., Hobbs P.J., Bowling P.J., & Potter J.F. (1997) Faunal and microbial diversity in three Welsh grassland soils under conventional and organic management regimes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 34, 453-471.

Output references
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