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Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services$
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Diana H. Wall, Richard D. Bardgett, Valerie Behan-Pelletier, Jeffrey E. Herrick, T. Hefin Jones, Karl Ritz, Johan Six, Donald R. Strong, and Wim H. van der Putten

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199575923

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199575923.001.0001

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Succession, Resource Processing, and Diversity in Detrital Food Webs

Succession, Resource Processing, and Diversity in Detrital Food Webs

(p.117) Chapter 3.1 Succession, Resource Processing, and Diversity in Detrital Food Webs
Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services

Justin Bastow

Oxford University Press

Resource specialization in detrital food webs may be viewed as successional, meaning that consumers specialize on feeding on plants (or animals) during particular stages of their decomposition. This is in contrast to aboveground grazing food webs, in which resource specialization is often taxonomic, meaning that consumers specialize on particular species, genera, or families of plants. Successional specialization within the detrital food web has important implications for the nature of species interactions and biodiversity in soils. On local scales, it allows for processing chain interactions among detritivores and decomposers. Many of these interactions are likely to be positive, facilitative interactions. Successional specialization may also allow more species of detritivores and decomposers to coexist than would otherwise be expected, although this has been difficult to demonstrate. On regional scales, successional specialization in the detrital food web may help explain why soil organisms appear not to exhibit the latitudinal gradients in species richness observed for plants and aboveground animals. Our understanding of detrital food webs and detrital succession could be improved by distinguishing between the importance of detritus as a resource and as a habitat for various soil organisms, and by distinguishing between detrital carbon and rhizal carbon throughout the soil food web.

Keywords:   detrital food webs, detrital succession, processing chain interactions, detrital ontogeny, latitudinal gradient, rhizal carbon, detrital carbon

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