Indexed on: 10 Feb '16Published on: 10 Feb '16Published in: Scientific Reports
Soil fauna are critical for ecosystem function and sensitive to the changes of soil fertility. The effects of fertilization on soil fauna communities, however, remain poorly understood. We examined the effects of fertilization form and quantity on the abundance, diversity and composition of soil fauna across an age-sequence of poplar plantations (i.e., 4-, 9- and 20-yr-old) in the coastal region of eastern China. We found that the effects of fertilization on faunal abundance, diversity, and composition differed among stand ages. Organic fertilizers increased the total abundance of soil fauna, whereas low level inorganic fertilizers imparted increases only in the 4- and 9-yr-old stands. The number of faunal groups did not change with fertilization, but Shannon's and Margalef diversity indices increased under low level organic fertilization, and decreased under inorganic fertilization in the 9- and 20-yr-old stands. Community composition of soil fauna differed strongly with fertilization and stand age. The changes in soil fauna were strongly associated with the changes in microbial biomass carbon, dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen, and available phosphorus and potassium. Our findings suggest that the responses of soil fauna to fertilization may be mediated through the fertilization effects on soil nutrient availability.