Historically, a large percentage of land area in the Piedmont of the southeastern USA was under intensive agricultural management for the production of cotton. This intensive farming resulted in massive erosion, and general degradation of soil resources until insect pests and poor economic conditions forced large-scale abandonment of farmland around the 1930s. In subsequent decades, there have been four predominant land-uses in the region, and we sampled soil macroinvertebrates from three replicate sites of cultivated fields, grass-dominated fields, loblolly pine stands, and remnant hardwood stands for a period of 2 years, with the objective of examining soil invertebrate community composition in relation to these long-term land-uses. At each site we dug three or four soil pits that were 30 × 30 cm to a depth of 15 cm, and sorted the soil volume by hand for a time not more than 1 person h, collecting all invertebrates ~5 mm in length or larger. We recorded abundance data for all invertebrate taxa collected, and we calculated community indices including diversity, evenness, rank abundance and percent similarity in order to identify patterns of community assemblage within each land-use type. Results suggest that soils in hardwood stands support the most taxonomically diverse macroinvertebrate communities followed by pine stands, pastures, and cultivated fields in order of decreasing diversity. For earthworms, Diplocardia spp. (North American megascolecids) were most abundant in the hardwood stands, but sometimes made up a substantial fraction of the community in other land-uses; whereas lumbricid earthworms (primarily introduced Apporectodea spp.) were most abundant in the cultivated and pasture soils, or showed no consistent habitat preference (native Bimastos spp.). Scarab beetles (larvae and adults) were common in all four systems, but reached the highest densities in cultivated and grass sites. Carabid beetle larvae were collected most often from cultivated soils. Several taxa were collected either exclusively or predominantly from forested sites, including diplopods, chilopods, gastropods, and several taxa of Diptera. These results indicate that long-term soil disturbance and the attendant differences in vegetation structure have profoundly influenced the community composition of invertebrates in Southern Piedmont soils, and that more intense disturbance results in a less diverse invertebrate community composed of a few, frequently non-native, disturbance-tolerant taxa.
Callaham Jr., M.A., D.D. Richter Jr., D.C. Coleman, M. Hofmockel (2006): Long-term land-use effects on soil invertebrate communities in Southern Piedmont soils, USA. European Journal of Soil Biology 42 (Supplement 1): S150-S156. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejsobi.2006.06.001