Field methodological approaches to investigate the short-term responses of enchytraeids to climate change
Research investigations on the effects of climate change on soil organisms face several methodological and practical difficulties. Experimental approaches to simulate the predicted changes in the climatic factors are usually costly and difficult to maintain, but also require a fair amount of background information of the selected study site and their animal communities. Available literature shows that most published work on climate change responses have focussed on nematodes and microarthropods (mites and springtails) and very few attempts have been made on enchytraeids. However, enchytraeid worms constitute excellent model organisms for climate change research. Besides their ecological importance in decomposition processes they are very sensitive to temperature and moisture changes, hence they quickly respond by altering their abundance and vertical distribution. Therefore, as part of the project REN2002-03224/GLO (‘Warming and Peatland soils: effects on the community structure and carbon fluxes’), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education, we have investigated the soil community composition and its seasonal changes in diversity and abundance in a Galician peatland (NW Spain) from 2003 to 2006. The field sampling survey has allowed a better knowledge of the community structure of this ecosystem and the identification of the main dominant faunal groups. Furthermore, the seasonal changes in population densities and/or vertical distribution of the different enchytraeid species and other soil fauna groups (microarthropods) have provided further insights into their survival strategies and will allow better predictions of the possible implications of climate change on the ecosystem functioning.
manipulation experiments, soil fauna, peatlands, temperature, moisture