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Size matters: what have we learnt from microcosm studies of decomposer fungus-invertebrate interactions?

A'Bear, A. Donald, Jones, Thomas Hefin ORCID: and Boddy, Lynne ORCID: 2014. Size matters: what have we learnt from microcosm studies of decomposer fungus-invertebrate interactions? Soil Biology & Biochemistry 78 , pp. 274-283. 10.1016/j.soilbio.2014.08.009

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The ongoing research ‘boom’ in soil ecology has been advanced by a widespread use of laboratory experiments to investigate mechanisms that could not be unravelled with field observations alone. Interactions between soil fungi and invertebrates have received considerable attention due to their trophic and functional importance in belowground systems. Saprotrophic cord-forming basidiomycete fungi are major agents of primary decomposition in woodland ecosystems, where they are also an important source of nutrition for fungal-feeding soil invertebrates. A plethora of microcosm experiments, with their main benefit being that they enable most variables to be kept constant while just a few are manipulated, have provided detailed insights into the ecology of fungus–invertebrate interactions. This review identifies important trends from this body of work (including a meta-analysis of grazing effects on fungal growth and wood decomposition) and explores the extent to which these patterns are supported by the few related experiments conducted in more complex mesocosm and field systems. Grazing in microcosms reduced fungal growth and increased decomposition, but with interaction-specific magnitude, reflecting invertebrate feeding preferences for different fungi. Macro-invertebrates (woodlice and millipedes) had stronger effects than micro- (e.g. nematodes) and meso- (e.g. collembola) invertebrates. This greater grazing pressure generally increased enzyme activities beneath mycelia during interactions in which wood decay was increased. Top-down effects of fungal-feeding can be extrapolated to more complex systems, but only for macro-invertebrates, particularly woodlice. Soil enzyme activity was stimulated, in microcosms and more complex systems, by short-term or low intensity grazing, but reduced when large areas of mycelium were removed by high-intensity grazing. Effects of differential fungal palatability on invertebrate populations are evident in microcosm studies of collembola. These bottom-up effects can be extrapolated more broadly than top-down effects; fungal community dominance determined collembola abundance and diversity, in mesocosms, and woodlouse abundance in the field. Using, as a case study, a series of experiments conducted at a range of scales, mechanisms underlying potential climate change effects on grazing interactions and decomposition are also explored. Biotic effects on decomposer community functioning are heterogeneous, depending on fungal dominance and the density of key macro-invertebrate taxa.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0038-0717
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 09:35

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