Root traits mediate functional guilds of soil nematodes in an ex-arable field

Chongzhe Zhang, Jiajun Wang, Zhuhong Ren, Zhengkun Hu, Shanyi Tian, Wenqing Fan, Xiaoyun Chen*, Bryan S. Griffiths, Feng Hu, Manqiang Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


One of the greatest challenges in soil ecology is to disentangle the plant-mediated bottom-up factors regulating soil biodiversity and community composition. The soil food web, fundamentally driving nearly all ecosystem functions, is controlled by the quantity and quality of root-mediated resources. Here, a trait-based approach was adopted to explore the divergence of soil nematode functional guilds and their connections to root traits belonging to distinct plant resource-use strategies. Root traits and rhizosphere nematode functional guilds were measured on four plant species in an ex-arable field. Results showed that plant species exhibiting acquisitive strategies promoted nematode abundance in contrast to species with conservative strategies. Further, the results also supported that plant resource-use strategies could regulate nematode life strategies in a bottom-up manner. However, lower proportions of opportunist nematodes in rhizosphere were found in acquisitive plants rather than conservative plants, mainly attributed to the stronger top-down regulation as a dominant control within the former than the later ones. Structure equation modeling revealed that root length density could primarily modulate nematode abundance and functional guilds mainly through changes in nitrogen availability of rhizosphere, as indicated by mineral N and enzymatic stoichiometry. Overall, our findings extend the conceptual framework based on a trait-centred view spanning plants to the soil food web, and this knowledge is critical to understand the mechanisms of ecosystem process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108038
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Early online date7 Oct 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Dec 2020


  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Functional traits
  • Plant-soil interactions
  • Resource use strategy
  • Rhizosphere effect
  • Soil food web


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