The quality of plant material affects the vigor of the decomposition process and composition of the decomposer biota. Root residues from hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), rye (Secale cereale L.) and vetch+rye, packed in litterbags were placed in pots of soil at 15 C and the content of the bags was analyzed after 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks. Bacterial biomass did not differ between residues with contrasting composition. Among bacterivores groups of nematodes that require high bacterial production dominated in fast decomposing resources whereas flagellates with smaller requirements prevail in slower decomposing resources. Biomass of bacterial feeding nematodes correlated positively with early phase (0-2 wk) decomposition that increased in the order: rye< vetch+rye<vetch. Bacterial biomass therefore seems to be under top-down (predation) control during early decomposition. In contrast, the fungal biomass differed between resources with highest values for rye. Moreover, this increase in fungal biomass occurred later during succession and was correlated with decomposition activity for rye in that period. Fungal biomass therefore seems to be under bottom-up (resource) control. The composition of the nematode assemblages (composed of 25 taxa) showed a clear relationship to initial plant resource quality as well as decomposition phase. Early successional microbivorous nematodes vary according to resource quality with demanding bacterivores+predators (Neodiplogasteridae) dominating in vetch and less demanding bacterivores (Rhabditidae) and fungivores (Aphelenchus) being equally common in vetch and rye. Later in the succession (2-4 wk) bacterivorous Cephalobidae and fungivorous Aphelenchoides prevailed similarly on the different root materials whereas bacterivorous protozoa and the amoebal fraction thereof dominated in rye. At week 12 no species dominated the nematode assemblages that were similar between the resources. The differences between nematode assemblages among plant resources at 2 week were similar to the results of a field study sampled after 6 weeks with the same soil and plant resources. This lends support to the relevance of the successional patterns observed in this incubation study.
Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 2005, Vol 37, Issue 10, p. 1763-1774