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Journal of Arid Land  2023, Vol. 15 Issue (5): 620-636    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-023-0009-4
Research article     
Responses of soil fauna community under changing environmental conditions
KUDURETI Ayijiamali1,2, ZHAO Shuai1,*(), Dina ZHAKYP3, TIAN Changyan1,*()
1State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
3Saken Seifullin Kazakh Agrotechnical University, Astana 010000, Kazakhstan
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Soil faunas account for 23% of known animal species and play a crucial role in ecosystem processes such as mineralizing nutrients, regulating microbial community composition, forming soil aggregates, and enhancing primary productivity. However, due to global climate change, population density, community composition, and distribution patterns of soil fauna vary. Understanding the responses of soil fauna to major environmental change facilitate the conservation of biodiversity. Therefore, a review work of recent researches for analysing the effects of key environmental factors on soil fauna, such as warming, drought, food quality, and soil physical-chemical properties was studied. For most species, warming may exert a positive effect on their abundance and population development, however, it can inhibit the survival and reproduction of hibernating species. Drought leads to low soil porosity and water holding capacity, which reduces soil fauna population and changes their community composition. Drought also can reduce the coverage of flora and alter microclimate of the soil surface, which in turn indirectly reduces fauna abundance. Climate warming and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide can reduce litter quality, which will force soil fauna to change their dietary choices (from higher-quality foods to poor quality foods) and reduce reproduction for survival. However, it is still predicted that enhanced species richness of plant (or litter) mixtures will positively affect soil fauna diversity. Habitat loss caused by the deterioration of soil physical-chemical property is primary factor affecting soil fauna. We mainly discuss the threats of increased salinity (a major factor in arid land) to soil fauna and their potential responses to anthropogenic disturbance in saline soils. The increase in soil salinity can override other factors that favour habitat specialists, leading to negative effects on soil fauna. Moreover, we find that more studies are needed to explore the responses of soil fauna in saline soils to human activities. And the relationship of important ecological processes with soil fauna density, community structure, and diversity needs to be redefined.

Key wordsbiodiversity      habitat      soil fauna      species distribution      stress factors     
Received: 18 November 2022      Published: 31 May 2023
Corresponding Authors: *TIAN Changyan (E-mail:;ZHAO Shuai (E-mail:
Cite this article:

KUDURETI Ayijiamali, ZHAO Shuai, Dina ZHAKYP, TIAN Changyan. Responses of soil fauna community under changing environmental conditions. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(5): 620-636.

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Fig. 1 Number of papers published in Web of Science on biodiversity conservation in 2021
Fig. 2 Classification of soil fauna by body width and body length. On the basis of body width: microfauna (2-100 μm), mesofauna (100 μm-2 mm), and macrofauna (2-20 mm). On the basis of body length: microfauna (0.02-0.20 mm), mesofauna (0.20-10.00 mm), and macrofauna (10.00-80.00 mm).
Fig. 3 Impact of key ecological factors on soil fauna and interactions of soil fauna with plants, organisms, and soil properties. Each arrow represents interaction. The solid arrows depict direct interactions, whereas the dashed arrows depict indirect effects. Plus (+) represents positive effects, and minus (-) was negative.
Soil fauna community Warming treatment Influence Reference
Timing Amount of warming
Nematode 7 a 1.5℃ during the day;
3.0℃ during the night
Changed the community structure of nematodes. Increased the abundance of bacteria feeders and fungivores.
Decreased the abundance of herbivores, predators, and omnivores.
Mueller et al. (2016)
Polydesmus angustus 300 d 3.3℃ Positive effects on abundance and higher population growth rates. David and Handa (2010)
Microarthropods 2 a 4.0℃ The richness and diversity of microarthropods increased. Meehan et al. (2020)
Millipedes Four seasons 3.3℃ The diversity and growth of millipedes decreased. David and Gillon (2009)
Microarthropods Extreme winter warming (0.6-3.2)℃ (soil); 3.5℃ (soil surface) Acari populations decreased by 39%; Collembola shifted from smaller soil-dwelling (euedaphic) species to larger litter-dwelling (hemiedaphic) species. Bokhorst et al. (2012)
Spirostreptid millipede
Desert warming for a season Slight warming High temperatures depleted the fat reserves of hibernating species, negatively affecting their growth in the following season. Crawford et al. (1987)
Microarthropods 2 a 1.3°C Warming had insignificant effects on the abundance of mites and Collembola. Wu et al. (2011)
Soil fauna community Experimental stage (1.0-2.0)°C Warming did not affect the density and diversity of soil fauna community. Peng et al. (2022)
Table 1 Effect of warming on soil fauna community
Soil fauna Drought treatment Influence Reference
Enchytraeus crypticus and Enchytraeus albidus 4 d exposed to a decreasing relative humidity from 99.8% to 98.4%
99.8% relative humidity (-2.7 Pa)
98.4% relative humidity (-22.1 Pa)
Reproduction and survival of Enchytraeus crypticus and Enchytraeus albidus declined >23% under drought conditions. Maraldo et al. (2009)
Soil dwelling springtail 28 d exposed to a water potential from 0 to -85 kPa (with an accuracy of ±20 kPa) Reproduction stopped at soil water potentials (-15 kPa), which did not influence body water content or growth. Body growth and activities continued until −100 kPa. Wang et al. (2020)
Earthworm (Aporrectodea
Drought exposure 14 d between -2 and -300 kPa Cocoon production was arrested when water potential was lower than -12 kPa and below -40 kPa. Under severe drought levels (-330 kPa), cocoon production was significantly impaired 2 months after drought exposure. Holmstrup et al. (2001)
Soil fauna community Extracted drought data from the WorldClim database Soil fauna density was reduced by 27.4% under the drought condition. Peng et al. (2022)
Soil fauna community Preventing 70% of the throughfall on the plots from reaching the ground from April to September The Oribatida abundance decreased by 77.8% in the drought treatment. Collembola abundance was reduced by 80.6%. Enchytraeids, mesostigmatid mites, and macroarthropod predator density decreased. Lindberg et al. (2002)
Soil fauna community Dry control: 15% (±1%) water content from May to July Acari and Collembola community composition shifted, with a higher presence of drought-sensitive species in irrigated soils. Guidi et al. (2002)
gardening ant
Dry treatment for 3 a, April to June every year Fungus-gardening ants (drought-resistant species) increased in abundance during multiyear droughts. Seal and Tschinkel (2010)
Table 2 Effect of drought on soil fauna community
Soil fauna Salinity treatment Influence Response Reference
Protozoa NaHCO3, NaCl, KHCO3, and KCl at 160 mM Ionic stress led to cell death of protozoa. NaHCO3 was shown to be the most effective inhibitor. Although protozoa do not contain a rigid cell wall, they can develop osmoregulatory mechanisms to minimize the damage caused by hyper-osmotic conditions. Li et al. (2017)
Nematode Scottnema lindsayae and Plectus antarcticus NaCl, MgSO4, KNO3 and NaCl+MgSO4, concentrations ranging from 0.1-3.0 M Salinity reduced the survival of both nematode species. Species have different salt tolerance. S. lindsayae survived in <0.2 M NaCl and <0.5 M MgSO4. They did not survive in any concentration of NaCl+MgSO4. P. antarcticus survived in <0.5 M NaCl, <0.5 M MgSO4, and <0.2 M (NaCl+MgSO4). Nkem et al. (2006)
Earthworm NaCl concentrations: 0, 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000, and 8000 mg/kg The survival, growth, and cocoon production were limited above the concentrations of 5436, 4985, and 2020 mg/kg NaCl. Behavioural strategy: earthworms escaped a high salinity environment.
The avoidance of A. caliginosa of 667 mg/kg NaCl.
The avoidance of E. feida of 1164 mg/kg NaCl.
Owojori et al. (2009); Owojori et al. (2008)
(Arctosa fulvolineata)
Three concentrations of substrate salinity (0‰, 35‰, and 70‰) Survival and egg-laying were significantly impaired when exposed to hypersaline conditions
for 12 d.
Morphological adaptations: having a continuous exoskeleton reduced body contact with salt. Physiological adaptation: accumulation of osmo-induced amino acids increased the osmolality of body fluids, enhancing the survival ability of spiders. O'Connor (2003); Foucreau et al. (2012)
Nematode Salinized Caatinga EC: 65.6, 106.2 dS/m;
Natural Caatinga EC: 0.98, 1.30 dS/m
Salinity caused a sharp decline in nematode abundance. Nematodes employed anhydrobiosis (reduced metabolic activity) to survive in dry and salty conditions. Zhi et al. (2008)
Soil fauna community Salinization habitat: 0.19%, 0.26%, 0.47%, 0.68%, and 1.12%. High salinity decreased the number of taxa. Community composition changed significantly. Different soil fauna taxa exhibited various tolerance to salinity. Yin et al. (2018)
Decomposer fauna Water salinity treatment: 10.0%, 5.0%, 3.0%, 1.0%,
and 0.4%
High salinity (>5%) decreased the litter decomposition rate. Modest salinity increased the litter decomposition rate Plots with 3% salinity showed higher decomposition rates than plots with 1.0% salinity and 0.4% salinity. Zhai et al. (2020)
Table 3 Effects of salinity on the soil fauna community
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