Response of soil invertebrates to disturbance across three resource regions in North Carolina

M. E. Barbercheck, D. A. Neher, O. Anas, S. M. El-Allaf, T. R. Weicht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We evaluated the potential of soil microarthropods and enchytraeid worms to be useful as bioindicators of soil condition in forest, wetland, and agricultural ecosystems over a range of ecoregions. Selected mesofauna and soil characteristics in soil and litter in relatively undisturbed and disturbed examples of each of three ecosystems within each of three land resource regions were monitored over two years. Optimal times of year to sample these organisms as indicators of disturbance were April, May, July and September. No single measure reflected disturbance across all three ecosystems. Among forest sites, Simpson's diversity index, evenness, abundance of ants, and proportion of enchytraeids in the mesofauna differed between soils of different disturbance levels. Among agricultural sites, richness, evenness, abundance of mites, and proportions of collembolans and of enchytraeids in the mesofauna differed between disturbance levels. Among wetland sites, Shannon's and Simpson's diversity indices, richness based on the total mesofauna, and abundances of mites, diplurans, ants, and isotomid and onychiurid collembolans differed between disturbance levels. Covariates most frequently associated with abundance and diversity of the measured mesofauna were soil electrical conductivity, available N, organic matter, and pH. Canonical correspondence analysis provided information somewhat different to bivariate analysis. Using both approaches to examine soil and litter taxa that have distinctive responses to disturbance may help to identify candidate groups applicable for use in large-scale environmental monitoring programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-298
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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