Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

From tropics to poles: Study reveals diversity of life in soils

Date:
October 31, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Microscopic animals that live in soils are as diverse in the tropical forests of Costa Rica as they are in the arid grasslands of Kenya, or the tundra and boreal forests of Alaska and Sweden, according to new research. Scientists have generally accepted that a wider range of species can be found above ground at the equator than at Earth's poles. But this study proves for the first time that the same rules don't apply to the nematodes, mites and springtails living underground.

Down the rabbit hole: a new world of creatures awaits beneath the surface.
Credit: Diana Wall, Colorado State University

Microscopic animals that live in soils are as diverse in the tropical forests of Costa Rica as they are in the arid grasslands of Kenya, or the tundra and boreal forests of Alaska and Sweden.

That conclusion is found in research results published Oct. 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have generally accepted that a wider range of species can be found above ground at the equator than at Earth's poles.

But this study proves for the first time that the same rules don't apply to the nematodes, mites and springtails living underground.

The team of National Science Foundation- (NSF) funded ecologists includes Tiehang Wu and Jim Garey at the University of South Florida, Diana Wall at Colorado State University, Ed Ayres now at Neon Inc. in Colorado, and Richard Bardgett at the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom.

"Scientist E.O. Wilson noted that the key to understanding Earth's biodiversity lies in exploration of its smallest life forms," said Matt Kane, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

"Important affirmation of this idea is provided in this global study of animals, in which the significance of below-ground biodiversity is revealed."

This is the first comprehensive molecular analysis--at nearly a species resolution--of the global distribution of soil animals across a broad range of ecosystems from the tropics to the poles.

Soil samples were taken from 11 sites around the world, including tropical forest in Costa Rica, arid grassland in Kenya, warm temperate forest in New Zealand, shrub steppe of Argentina and tundra and boreal forest of Alaska and Sweden.

Through DNA testing, researchers found that each location had a diversity of soil animals, but that each ecosystem is unique with its own soil animals -- illustrating an "amazing diversity of species" that had never been discovered before, said Garey.

"On average, 96 percent of our identified soil animals were found at only a single location, suggesting that most soil animals have restricted distributions, or in other words, they are endemic," said Wall.

"This challenges the long-held view that these smaller animals are widely distributed. However, unlike most above-ground organisms, there was no indication that latitude made a difference in soil animal diversity."

"Mites and roundworms dominate soil ecology and contribute to the breakdown and cycling of nutrients in the soil," Garey said. "These animals are essential to the proper functioning of the soil ecosystem in natural and farmlands."

The researchers also examined how the global distribution of soil animals relates to factors such as climate, soil nutrient levels and above-ground biodiversity.

Results showed that sites with greater above-ground biodiversity appeared to have lower diversity beneath in soils.

The main factors explaining this low soil animal diversity at sites with high above-ground diversity were high levels of soil inorganic nitrogen availability and lower pH compared with other sites.

Some sites with high animal biodiversity, like the Kenyan grassland site, are considered more at risk due to land use and population increase.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Wu, E. Ayres, R. D. Bardgett, D. H. Wall, J. R. Garey. Molecular study of worldwide distribution and diversity of soil animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1103824108

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "From tropics to poles: Study reveals diversity of life in soils." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018111932.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, October 31). From tropics to poles: Study reveals diversity of life in soils. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018111932.htm
National Science Foundation. "From tropics to poles: Study reveals diversity of life in soils." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018111932.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins