Nematode biodiversity in soils of the shortgrass steppe

Nematode biodiversity in soils of the shortgrass steppe

Acrobeles, common in the shortgrass steppe

Project Summary

An extensive survey of terrestrial nematodes will be conducted at two sites on the shortgrass steppe.The goal of this research is to recognize nematode biodiversity on the shortgrass steppe and to communicate the content of that biodiversity to the scientific community.

Shortgrass steppe was selected for study because it is likely to be affected by global climate change.The vast number of soil nematode taxa are as yet unknown to science, with only an estimated 3-5% having been described. Despite their importance in soil ecosystems, there is limited taxonomic data available on nematodes on the shortgrass steppe, particularly with respect to freeliving nematodes. A taxonomic baseline will be established, from which the scientific community may further investigate the pervasive effects of global change on soil ecosystems, the systematics and ecological roles of nematodes, and better understand soil nematode communities and the role played by nematodes in ecosystem function.

Nematodes will be sampled at two Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, representing the shortgrass steppe (SGS LTER site) and the transition zone of shortgrass steppe to hot desert (Sevilleta LTER site). Despite differences in annual rainfall, these sites contain similar plant communities. Soil sampling will be stratified on transects through habitats on large-scale environmental gradients at each site. Georeference coordinates, soil carbon and nitrogen content, and dominant associated vegetation will be determined.

Nematodes will be extracted, preserved, and mounted using standard techniques. A graduate student will be trained. Voucher specimens and mass collections will be deposited in a nematode collection. Images of specimens will be digitized and made available for electronic distribution over the Internet. A sample if these images is available for viewing on our Slide and Image Archive page.

Results of the survey will be made available over the World Wide Web (WWW) via Internet browsers such as Netscape and Gopher. Using the Biota software package (originally developed for managing arthropod collections from La Selva, Costa Rica), curatorial, nomenclatural, image, morphometric, metadata, and bibliographic data will be compiled for each specimen. The database will reside on the WWW server at the LTER network headquarters or at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. Internet users will be able to access the database via a graphical user interface written in the hypertext markup language, through which they may conduct queries and sort data by indicators such as taxonomic classification, soil conditions or sites, and view and download taxonomic data based on those queries.

This research will be the first comprehensive survey of soil nematodes on the shortgrass steppe, bridging the gap between systematics and ecology of soil invertebrate communities in this biome.

Diana Wall
Bob Niles
Ana Child

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