About this Research Topic
Soil fauna plays a significant role at all trophic levels of the soil food web and regulates processes that are crucial for soil functioning, such as nutrient cycling, immobilization and/or degradation of toxic compounds, formation of soil structure, greenhouse gas emissions and C turnover.
Although soil fauna is not thought to contribute significantly to soil respiration during litter or soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition, the diversity of soil fauna has been found to strongly influence SOM distribution and dynamics. Yet, the functional contribution of soil fauna to many soil processes is not well understood due to methodological limitations and the high complexity of interactions at various spatiotemporal scales.
In general, soil fauna has received far less scientific attention than bacteria and fungi (and lately archaea) in soil studies and has been regularly ignored in global biogeochemical models, with maybe exceptions for some earthworms. However, recent studies are raising the awareness of the influence of soil fauna on ecosystems dynamics. For instance, earthworms have been found to be major players in N2O emissions from soils. They exert a strong influence on C stabilization, and they promote the degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Less studied, ants and termites have been found to increase crop productivity in drylands, and different lifeforms of Collembola have been shown to impact microorganisms in various ways over time, thereby potentially affecting C and N cycles within farming systems. The influence of soil fauna indeed manifests over a broad ranges of spatiotemporal scales. For example, some effect such as aggregate formation may cumulate over time and finally contribute to the formation of whole soil profiles, which serve as a framework for other soil processes such as water movement, decomposition, etc.
Meanwhile, soil biodiversity is impacted by an increasing human pressure through deforestation, agriculture intensification, habitat fragmentation or climate change (increasing temperatures, extreme weather events), which leads to soil biodiversity loss, in particular of soil fauna, with associated consequences on soil functioning and resilience.
Within this general context, this Research Topic welcomes studies addressing both:
(i) the impact of fauna on soil processes, including C, N, P biogeochemical cycles, greenhouse gas emissions, soil physical properties, soil formation, erosion or restoration, soil water retention, …
(ii) the impact of natural or anthropogenic soil alterations such as agricultural intensification and climate change on the diversity, functions, and responses of soil fauna.
We encourage submissions of innovative laboratory or field studies using molecular techniques, stable (and radio) isotopes (13C and 15N, 14C), long term studies, and studies exploring interactions between soil fauna and focusing on understudied organisms. Critical review articles covering specific aspects of the topic are also welcome.
Keywords: protists, nematodes, earthworms, macroarthropods, microarthropods, soil functions, soil structure, biogeochemical cycles, greenhouse gas, C sequestration, soil alterations, soil stability, resilience
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.