Submitted to: Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/6/2009
Publication Date: 6/30/2009
Citation: Ukabi, S., Whitford, W., Steinberger, Y. 2009. Faunalpedturbation effects on soil microarthropods in the Negev Desert. Journal of Arid Environments. 73:907-911. Interpretive Summary: Deserts comprise one-third of the world’s land surface. As a general land type, deserts are important regions of biological diversity and over 1 billion people live within desert environments. An important component of desert ecosystems are soil organisms that carry on important processes including nutrient recycling and decomposition of plant materials. This study examined the impacts of natural disturbances upon the abundance of some of these soil organisms. Undisturbed areas had greater abundance of studied soil organisms. However, a more important factor was location across a landscape. Areas that received water from runoff across slopes tended to have abundance soil organisms regardless of disturbance. This study reaffirmed the importance of specific landscape location on the effects, or lack of effects, of natural disturbances in desert environments.
Technical Abstract: Soil microarthropod communities in seed-harvester ant-nest (Messor spp.) soils and pits excavated by porcupines (Hystrix indica) were examined on a hill-slope catena in the Negev Desert to test the hypothesis that animal-produced soil disturbances increase abundance and diversity of soil biota. There were significantly fewer arthropods and lower taxonomic diversity of soil microarthropods at the top and mid-slope locations, with no consistent patterns of abundance between cool-wet and hot-dry seasons. Some prostigmatids, cryptostigmatids, and other arthropods in ant-nest, porcupine-pit, and undisturbed soils were more abundant in wet than dry seasons at some locations but more abundant in the hot-dry season at other locations and sample sites. Seven prostigmatid mite families that were relatively abundant in undisturbed soils were absent or of low abundance in ant-nest modified and porcupine-pit soils at mid- and low-slope catena locations. The data result in rejection of the hypothesis. However, the significant effects of topographic position on the catena on soil microarthropod communities emphasize the importance of examining broad spatial patterns and temporal variation before making generalizations about the effects of ecological engineers on arid ecosystem structure and function.