Contact person: Dr. Clément Schneider
Institution: Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz
Internet: Senckenberg Sektion Apterygota
Springtails (Collembola) are the numerically most important hexapod species group in terrestrial ecosystems. More than 8000 species have been described worldwide. Approximately 400 to 500 species are known from Central European countries. Due to their small body size of about 0.5-5 mm, Collembola are classified as microarthropods, being part of the soil mesofauna. They are found in almost all soil habitats in average densities of 10,000 to 70,000 individuals per m2, depending on habitat type and location. Collembola mainly live on the soil surface, the litter and the upper 20 cm of the humic mineral soil and are thus classified according to three different life-form types: epedaphic (living on the soil surface), hemiedaphic (in the upper boundary horizons of litter and soil) and euedaphic (in the pore space between particles of soil or sand). They feed predominantly on layers of bacteria and algae, fungal hyphae and occasionally decaying plant material.
The taxonomy of Collembola is relatively well known, although their systematics is still changing. Since 1994, the „Synopses on Palaearctic Collembola“ provide up-to-date identification keys that also summarize autecological data of individual species.
Due to their limited dispersal ability and their close connection to the soil environment, euedaphic species have the greatest significance as bioindicators for edaphic habitats. However, widespread species with less specific habitat preferences (euryoecious) are usually the most dominant species in most soils, while more stenoecious species with their large predictive value as bioindicators (being more susceptible to changes in environmental conditions) are usually found in lower abundances, with the exception of very specific habitat types. Thus, the investigation of both the species composition and the associated community structures (dominance relationships) of a given soil sample is necessary to recognize spatial and temporal changes in the soil at small scales.