SYMP 20-4 - Mesofauna diversity, ecosystem function and resilience in a changing world

Thursday, August 10, 2017: 3:10 PM
Portland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center
Charlene Janion-Scheepers, Department of Entomology, Iziko South African Museum, Cape Town, South Africa; South African Museum, Cape Town, South Africa and Elizabeth A Hugo-Coetzee, National Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa

In the last decade the vital roles of soil organisms have gained global recognition, whilst the threats facing these organisms have increased. The large diversity of soil organisms is a function both of their small size and their richness across different microhabitats. The benefits of soil ecosystem research to agricultural productivity, conservation planning, the management of global change, and the maintenance of ecosystem services have been demonstrated internationally. However, research on the diversity of soil organisms and its response to change has been fragmented and poorly integrated.The need to provide food security to a growing human population in the face of climate change, land transformation, invasive species and pollution is placing an increasing pressure on global soils. Soil biota can be used as indicators of biodiversity, global change and various types of disturbances. Their reponse to change makes them ideal for use as indicators for restoration, agricultural soil health, contaminated land sites or ecosystem health measurement.


Here, we discuss two groups of mesofauna, Collembola (springtails) and Acari (mites), which are amongst the most diverse and abundant soil fauna globally. These two groups are of the few soil fauna taxa that ocurr on all continents, including the polar regions. Globally there are about 40 000 described mite species, of which most live in or on the ground and are mainly decomposers or predators, but little is known about their specific ecosystem function. For Collembola, about 8 500 species, mostly decomposers, have been described worldwide. We discuss and compare the global geographical distribution of these two taxa. In addition, by using experimental and field-based examples, we illustrate how these taxa respond to global changes such as climate change and biological invasions. We show how their resilience or lack thereof to natural and anthropogenic disturbances may impact soil ecosystem functions and services.