Biologically mediated soil processes rely on soil biota to provide vital ecosystem services in natural and managed ecosystems. However, land use changes continue to impact on assemblages of soil biota and the ecosystem services they provide. The objective of the present study was to assess the effect of land use intensification on the distribution and abundance of soil invertebrate communities in the Nilgiri, a human-dominated biosphere reserve of international importance. Soil invertebrates were sampled in 15 land use practices ranging from simple and intensively managed annual crop fields and monoculture tree plantations through less intensively managed agroforestry and pristine forest ecosystems. The lowest taxonomic richness was found in annual crops and coconut monoculture plantations, while the highest was in moist-deciduous and semi-evergreen forests. With 21 ant species, agroforestry systems had the highest diversity of ants followed by forest ecosystems (12 species). Earthworms and millipedes were significantly more abundant in agroforestry systems, plantations and forest ecosystems than in annual crop fields. Ants, termites, beetles, centipedes, crickets and spiders were more abundant in forest ecosystems than in other ecosystems. It is concluded that annual cropping systems have lower diversity and abundance of soil invertebrates than agroforestry and natural forest ecosystems. These results and the literature from other regions highlight the potential role that agroforestry practices can play in biodiversity conservation in an era of ever-increasing land use intensification and habitat loss.
Authors: Rahman, P.M.; Varma, R.V.; Sileshi, G.W.
Subjects: biodiversity, anthropogenic activities, domestic gardens, taxonomic status, land use
Publication type: Article
Source: Agroforestry Systems 85: 165-177