Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Few apparent short-term effects of elevated soil temperature and increased frequency of summer precipitation on the abundance and taxonomic diversity of desert soil micro- and meso-fauna

January 1, 2011

Frequent hydration and drying of soils in arid systems can accelerate desert carbon and nitrogen mobilization due to respiration, microbial death, and release of intracellular solutes. Because desert microinvertebrates can mediate nutrient cycling, and the autotrophic components of crusts are known to be sensitive to rapid desiccation due to elevated temperatures after wetting events, we studied whether altered soil temperature and frequency of summer precipitation can also affect the composition of food web consumer functional groups. We conducted a two-year field study with experimentally-elevated temperature and frequency of summer precipitation in the Colorado Plateau desert, measuring the change in abundance of nematodes, protozoans, and microarthropods. We hypothesized that microfauna would be more adversely affected by the combination of elevated temperature and frequency of summer precipitation than either effect alone, as found previously for phototrophic crust biota. Microfauna experienced normal seasonal fluctuations in abundance, but the effect of elevated temperature and frequency of summer precipitation was statistically non-significant for most microfaunal groups, except amoebae. The seasonal increase in abundance of amoebae was reduced with combined elevated temperature and increased frequency of summer precipitation compared to either treatment alone, but comparable with control (untreated) plots. Based on our findings, we suggest that desert soil microfauna are relatively more tolerant to increases in ambient temperature and frequency of summer precipitation than the autotrophic components of biological soil crust at the surface.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Few apparent short-term effects of elevated soil temperature and increased frequency of summer precipitation on the abundance and taxonomic diversity of desert soil micro- and meso-fauna
DOI 10.1016/j.soilbio.2011.03.020
Authors B.J. Darby, D.A. Neher, D.C. Housman, J. Belnap
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Series Number
Index ID 70036518
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center