Soil Macrofaunal Communities are Heterogeneous in Heathlands with Different Grazing Intensity

Published on Aug 1, 2015in Pedosphere3.736
· DOI :10.1016/S1002-0160(15)30033-3
Jean-François Ponge58
Estimated H-index: 58
(CNRS: Centre national de la recherche scientifique),
Sandrine Salmon24
Estimated H-index: 24
(CNRS: Centre national de la recherche scientifique)
+ 1 AuthorsJean-Jacques Geoffroy10
Estimated H-index: 10
(CNRS: Centre national de la recherche scientifique)
Moderate grazing by cattle increases the heterogeneity of soil and vegetation. This has been suggested as an ecologically sustainable mean of managing natural environments endangered by tree encroachment, such as heathlands. Our study was performed to test the impact of grazing intensity on soil macroinvertebrate communities in heterogeneous landscapes in a private property eligible to the Natura 2000 European Network of Special Protection Areas within the Brenne Natural Regional Park (Indre, France). We sampled macroinvertebrates along a broken line crossing 5 different land-use types, from pasture to pine forest, passing through a besom heath (Erica scoparia) heathland at 3 levels of cattle pressure. We hypothesized that: i) litter-dwelling (mostly arthropods and mollusks) and soil-dwelling macroinvertebrates (mostly earthworms) would respond in an opposite manner to various grazing intensities, and ii) intermediate cattle pressure (pastured heath) would increase soil and community heterogeneity. The results supported the first hypothesis, which was explained by land-use impacts mediated by soil properties. However, our results supported only partly the second hypothesis since maximum dissimilarity (whether in the composition of soil macroinvertebrate communities or in soil features) was observed in only one out of the two pastured heaths where cattle pressure was intermediate.
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