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Fine Root Biomass Mediates Soil Fauna Community in Response to Nitrogen Addition in Poplar Plantations (Populus deltoids) on the East Coast of China

Fine Root Biomass Mediates Soil Fauna Community in Response to Nitrogen Addition in Poplar Plantations (Populus deltoids) on the East Coast of China

Soil fauna is critical for maintaining ecosystem functioning, and its community could be significantly impacted by nitrogen (N) deposition. However, our knowledge of how soil-faunal community composition responds to N addition is still limited. In this study, we simulated N deposition (0, 50, 100, 150, and 300 kg N ha−1 year−1) to explore the effects of N addition on the total and the phytophagous soil fauna along the soil profile (0–10, 10–25, and 25–40 cm) in poplar plantations (Populus deltoids) on the east coast of China. Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) was dissolved in water and sprayed evenly under the canopy with a backpack sprayer to simulate N deposition. Our results showed that N addition either significantly increased or decreased the density (D) of both the total and the phytophagous soil fauna (Dtotal and Dp) at low or high N addition rates, respectively, indicating the existence of threshold effects over the range of N addition. However, N addition had no significant impacts on the number of groups (G) and diversity (H) of either the total or the phytophagous soil fauna (Gtotal, Gp and Htotal, Hp). With increasing soil depth, Dtotal, Dp, Gtotal, and Gp largely decreased, showing that the soil fauna have a propensity to aggregate at the soil surface. Htotal and Hp did not significantly vary along the soil profile. Importantly, the threshold effects of N addition on Dtotal and Dp increased from 50 and 100 to 150 kg N ha−1 year−1 along the soil profile. Fine root biomass was the dominant factor mediating variations in Dtotal and Dp. Our results suggested that N addition may drive changes in soil-faunal community composition by altering belowground food resources in poplar plantations.

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