Changes in the abundance and structure of a soil mite (Acari) community under long-term organic and chemical fertilizer treatments

Zhiping Cao, Xuemei Han, Cheng Hu, Jun Chen, Dianpeng Zhang, Yosef Steinberger

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A study was conducted in an 11-year field experiment in a winter wheat-summer maize rotation agroecosystem in the North China Plain. We aimed to evaluate the changes in soil physico-chemical parameters and the abundance, diversity and community structure of soil mites, under organic fertilizer (OF) and chemical fertilizer (CF) treatments, compared to unfertilized soil as the control (U). Soil organic matter content, available potassium (K), total nitrogen (N) and hydrolyzable N were significantly higher in the plots under the OF treatment than under the other treatments. Available phosphorus (P) content was similar in OF and CF plots and higher than in the control. After continuous 11-year application, both the organic and chemical fertilizer treatments reduced the abundance and diversity of soil mites. Both types of fertilizer significantly reduced the abundance of Oribatida such as Epilohmannia sp., Xylobates sp., Scheloribates sp., and Cultroribula sp. This result was positively related to the high level of phosphorus in the two treatments, which probably suppressed fungi, thus reducing the food resources for mycophagous mites. However, the organic fertilizer remarkably increased the abundance of r-strategic, predatory Mesostigmata, such as Ascidae, possibly due to abundant prey under the nutrient-rich conditions. However, the number of predatory mites did not increase in the chemical fertilizer treatment. While organic fertilizer application did not increase the overall abundance and diversity of soil mites, especially Oribatida, parallel studies (unpublished) show that the increase in predatory Mesostigmata reflected enhanced biological activity and functioning of the bacterial decomposition pathway especially in the food web of this treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 30970536 ), the Key Discipline Foundation of Ecology in Beijing Municipality (grant no. XK10019440 ) and China Agricultural University Scientific Fund ( 2009TD15 ). Special thanks are due to Prof. Weijiong Li, who designed and launched the field experiment; thanks also to Mr. Aimin Shi, who has been conducting the field experiment since it was started; and to Dr. Yanrui Luo, who finished the soil sampling and mite sorting work. We also gratefully acknowledge the help and suggestions of Prof. James Curry and two anonymous reviewers.


  • Acari
  • Chemical fertilizer
  • Community composition and diversity
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Soil food web


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