Open Access

Optimizing for taxonomic coverage: a comparison of methods to recover mesofauna from soil


Manipulating soil properties to modify the dynamics between nematodes and their natural enemies has been proposed to conserve services such as the biological control of insect pests by entomopathogenic nematodes. Many soil microarthropods including acari mites and collembola are natural enemies of nematodes; however, little is known about the naturally occurring assemblages of these two soil dwelling groups and how they might be influenced by soil conditions. A method to efficiently recover both nematodes and microarthropods from environmental samples would be helpful to characterize communities of these two groups in different habitats. Because samples of nematodes extracted from soil by sucrose centrifugation (SC) also contain soil mites, collembola, protozoans, and fungal and bacterial propagules, the efficiency of SC to recover microarthropods was compared to more conventional methods of microarthropod recovery such as heptane flotation (HF), Berlese funnels (BF), and a modified flotation Berlese method (FBF). Microarthropods were identified using an inverted microscope to class in one experiment and to order in a second. Significantly more microarthropods of all taxa were recovered by SC than with either Berlese method (BF or FBF). In total, 40% more microarthropods comprising seven orders were recovered by HF compared to SC, but the difference was not significant. Ecological indices (diversity, richness, and evenness) derived from HF and SC were congruent and significantly higher than those derived from BF. Excessive organic matter in the HF extractions, compared to those of SC, BF, and FBF, made mite detection and identification difficult and time consuming. Moreover, unlike SC, neither HF nor any Berlese method recovered nematodes. Accordingly, we found SC to be the most efficient method for microarthropod extraction, making it an ideal method for studies of communities of nematodes and many of their natural enemies in the soil.

Publication timeframe:
Volume Open
Journal Subjects:
Life Sciences, other