Ecological maturity and stability of nematode communities in response to precipitation manipulations in grasslands

Katharine E. Ankrom, André L.C. Franco, Steven J. Fonte, Laureano A. Gherardi, Cecilia Milano de Tomasel, Carl Wepking, Pingting Guan, Shuyan Cui, Osvaldo E. Sala, Diana H. Wall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Climate change is predicted to cause alterations in precipitation patterns in grasslands around the globe. The implications of these changes for soil biota and multiple key ecosystem functions that they regulate in grasslands is little known. We used soil nematodes as biological indicators in grassland ecosystems experiencing large shifts in precipitation in an arid, semiarid, and mesic grasslands. By calculating the nematode plant parasite index, maturity index, and its extensions: the enrichment, basal, channel, and structure index, we assessed grassland ecosystem response to five levels of manipulated precipitation over the course of two years. Nematode community structure described by these indices was sensitive enough to reflect community changes from the altered precipitation treatments and responded uniquely at each of the three sites. With increasing precipitation, nematode communities at the arid site became more enriched in species and switched to a more fungal-dominated decomposition pathway. The semiarid site showed a decline in nematode maturity, structure, and fungally dominated decomposition, but greater levels of enrichment, basal resources, and herbivory. In the mesic site increasing precipitation led to a nematode community with greater maturity and structure and shifted toward a fungal decomposition channel that also reflected a lower level of enrichment and plant parasites. We performed an indicator analysis to identify nematode genera representative of each grassland site and precipitation level. Nematode indicator composition was found to be significantly affected by the levels of applied precipitation and across sites, highlighting specific genera that may be affected by future precipitation regimes such as Eucephalobus in the arid site or Trichodorus from the mesic site. Nematode community analysis allowed for the detection of strong influences on the soil food web caused from extreme and moderate precipitation manipulations. This finding stresses the need for more genera level studies to be done to reflect specific ecosystem responses to climate change as well as the need for more cross site studies as site-specific differences must be accounted for ecological interpretations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104263
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Climate change
  • Drought
  • Indicator taxa
  • Nematode indices
  • Soil fauna

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Soil Science


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