Oribatid mites show how climate and latitudinal gradients in organic matter can drive large-scale biodiversity patterns of soil communities

Caruso, Tancredi; Schaefer, Ina; Monson, Frank; Keith, Aidan M.. 2019 Oribatid mites show how climate and latitudinal gradients in organic matter can drive large-scale biodiversity patterns of soil communities. Journal of Biogeography, 46 (3). 611-620.

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Aim: The factors determining spatial distributions and diversity of terrestrial invertebrates are typically investigated at small scales. Large‐scale studies are lacking for soil animals, which control microbial communities and represent one of the most diverse yet poorly known animal assemblages. Here, we analyzed a major group (Oribatida) to test whether belowground macroecological patterns can be predicted by climatic variables, vegetation and large‐scale variation in key soil properties. Location: We modelled the multivariate distribution of more than 100 species using biodiversity data collected across Great Britain in the framework of the Countryside Survey ( Methods: We analyzed species‐level data from 582 samples collected across 162 hectads (10 × 10 km) covering the largest possible range of vegetation types, soil properties and climatic conditions within GB. We created the first large‐scale maps of soil animal diversity metrics at the GB scale, including novel estimates of metrics of phylogenetic diversity (PD). Using structural equation modelling, we quantified the direct and indirect effects of location (latitude, longitude), plant community structure and abiotic factors such as precipitation on species composition, richness and PD. Results: We found that variation in species composition follows a latitudinal gradient with diversity generally increasing northward. The latitudinal variation in species composition drives PD via changes in both species richness and phylogenetic distance between species. This gradient is mostly determined by latitudinal variation in precipitation and organic matter, which were very good predictors of species composition. Precipitation and organic matter were, however, relatively weak while statistically significant predictors of diversity metrics. Conclusions: Past studies have emphasized the unpredictability of species distributions and variation in species composition in hyper diverse soil animal communities. However, past studies were conducted at small scales, where stochastic factors may weaken the signal of deterministic factors. Oribatid mites in our study show for the first time that the large scale latitudinal gradients in climate and organic matter predict not only variation in species composition but also taxonomic and PD of soil animal communities.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0305-0270
Additional Keywords: animals, community phylogenetics, distribution, diversity, Oribatida, soil macroecology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 11 Feb 2019 15:27 +0 (UTC)

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