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Spatial variations in the trophic structure of soil animal communities in boreal forests of Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve

Goncharov, A. A., Khramova, E. Yu., Tiunov, A. V.
Eurasian soil science 2014 v.47 no.5 pp. 441-448
animal communities, boreal forests, conservation areas, energy resources, food webs, plant litter, soil invertebrates, soil structure, stable isotopes
Soil animal communities and detrital food webs are spatially compartmentalized. In old-growth boreal forests the dynamics of dominating plant species forms a considerable heterogeneity of edaphic conditions in the soil layer. We demonstrate a strong difference in total and relative abundance of main trophic groups of soil macrofauna in four microsites, i.e. under tree crowns, in gaps, in mounds and in pits created by fallen spruce trees. The variation in the functional structure of soil animal communities is likely related to different availability of key energy resources (leaf litter, roots and root deposits) in the microsites studied. However, results of the stable isotope analysis suggest that mobile litter-dwelling predators occupy very similar trophic positions in different microsites. The compartmentalization of soil invertebrate communities caused by the vegetation-induced mosaic of edaphic conditions seemingly does not lead to spatial isolation of local food webs that are integrated at the top trophic levels.