Mite density, not diversity, declines with biomass removal in Patagonian woodlands

Margarita M. Fernández, Cecilia Casas, José C. Bedano, David M. Eissenstat, Margot W. Kaye, Ivana M. García, Marcelo E. Kun, Lucas A. Garibaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Belowground biodiversity loss from anthropogenic causes is far less addressed and quantified than aboveground biodiversity loss. Soil fauna supports soil productivity and biogeochemical cycles, and their decline needs further research. We tested the effects of a woodland harvest gradient (0, 30, 50, and 70% biomass removal) on litterfall, mesofauna density, and Oribatida diversity in three sites of northwestern Patagonia (Argentina). Sites contrasted in plant community structure and productivity. Acari from litter and soil were compared. Annual litter production showed a 58% decline at the highest harvest intensity level, which was constant across sites. Litter structural α- diversity decreased with the highest intensity harvest only at the high productivity site. The density of soil-inhabiting Acari did not change with increasing harvest intensity, while the density of Acari inhabiting the litter decreased by 65% at the highest harvest intensity. Within Acari, Oribatida inhabiting the litter had the most significant density decline with increasing harvest intensity. Oribatida richness and α- diversity only differed among sites, suggesting resistance to increasing biomass removal despite shifts in litter production and litter structural diversity. Prostigmata did not respond to increasing biomass removal either in soil or litter. Our study is the first to assess Acari response to an aboveground biomass removal gradient in southern woodlands. Applying high biomass removal to low productivity sites can compromise micro detritivore density and thus, impair its functional role. Site productivity should be considered in management plans entailing conservation of soil fauna in southern woodlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104242
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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