About this Research Topic
Soil is one of the most diverse habitats on the planet. It has been estimated that 1g of soil contains thousands of bacterial taxa, up to 200m of fungal hyphae, and a wide range of invertebrates. The complexity in soil communities has been shown to play a critical role in maintaining soil functioning, which includes fundamental processes such as litter decomposition. These communities comprise little organisms like archaea, bacteria and protists, all the way to macroarthropods such as ants or woodlice. In forest ecosystems, it has been proposed that the impact of invertebrates on decomposition processes could be as large as that of microorganisms. For example, soil macrofauna (e.g. isopodos and some insect groups) consume and fragment leaf litter and facilitate its accessibility to microbial degradation. Other groups (e.g. springtails) do not feed on litter itself, but consume fungi hyphae which degrade the leaf or woody litter, directly affecting the fungal decomposer community and, indirectly, the decomposition process.
Over the last decades, scientists have been motivated to expand the knowledge about the mechanisms that preserve the multifunctionality of soil, particularly under biodiversity loss threats as consequences of global change. However, studies that evaluate how the soil biodiversity is related to litter decomposition in forest ecosystems are particularly scarce due to the immense variety of mechanisms and organisms involved. Furthermore, the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of other factors as temperature, moisture, soil acidity, nutrient content, and litter quality add more complexity to assessing the effects of soil biota on decomposition processes. Nevertheless, understanding these relationships and the impact of different factors can support soil biodiversity conservation and forest ecosystem functioning.
This Research Topic aims to provide empirical evidence of the relationships between different types of soil organisms and litter decomposition, and also account for the interaction with others drivers of the decomposition process (e.g., litter quality and climate) in forest ecosystems. We encourage the submission of original research articles, focusing on microcosms or field studies, involving micro, meso- or macrofauna effects on litter decomposition process, especially in under-represented forest ecosystems, considering global change factors like climate or land-use changes. Different types of contributions are welcome: field and laboratory studies, long-term monitoring and model-based studies, review articles, as well as concept and perspective letters.
This Research Topic has been developed in collaboration with María Laura Moreno of CONICET-University of Jujuy, Argentina and Carlos Barreto of the University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Keywords: Litter Decomposition, Soil Biodiversity, Litter Quality, Invertebrates, Microorganisms
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