Soil compaction and surface-active arthropods in historic, agricultural, alien, and recovering vegetation
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Soil compaction is a major threat to natural resources. However, little information is available on the impacts of soil compaction on arthropod diversity especially relative to different types of vegetation, land use and restoration activities. In response to this dearth of information, we studied soil compaction, as well as percentage soil moisture and mean leaf litter depth, associated with four vegetation types: natural vegetation (fynbos, the historic condition), agricultural land (vineyards), invasive alien trees, and vegetation cleared of invasive alien trees (recovering vegetation). Our study took place in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa, a biodiversity hotspot, yet also an area of intense viticulture and heavy invasion by alien plants. We sampled soil surface-active arthropods using pitfall traps, and compared species richness and abundance in different vegetation types with various levels of soil compaction and other soil variables. Overall, vineyards had the highest soil compaction while natural fynbos and aliens had low and comparable compaction. For both arthropod species richness and abundance, the order of the four vegetation types was, from highest to lowest: natural fynbos, alien cleared sites, vineyards, and alien infested sites. Level of soil compaction negatively correlated with arthropod species richness but not with abundance. Neither soil moisture nor leaf litter depth on their own significantly affected arthropod species richness or abundance. While alien trees overall had a strong negative effect on both arthropod species richness and abundance, and much more so than vineyards, the situation is reversible, with removal of aliens being associated with rapid recovery of soil structure and of arthropod assemblages. This is an encouraging sign for restoration.
- RESEARCH: Samways M