Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems

Practical 1: Soil ecosystems - soil biota and food webs

Introduction An ecosystem is made up of plants, animals (biodiversity) and abiotic factors which work together to capture, store and transfer energy, nutrients and water. For example plants ³capture´ energy via photosynthesis and energy is stored as carbohydrates in plants or fats and proteins in animals after they have eaten the plants. Soil organisms break down plant and animal tissues and transfer the energy to themselves, while returning nutrients to the soil for uptake by plants. The many organisms in an ecosystem carry out these ecosystem functions, and the more diverse an ecosystem is, the more stable and reliable are these functions. The soil provides a good, easily studied example of an ecosystem. Soil biodiversity reflects the mix of living organisms in the soil. These organisms interact with one another and with plants and small animals forming a web of biological activity. Soil is by far the most biologically diverse part of Earth. The soil food web includes beetles, springtails, mites, worms, spiders, ants, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, and other organisms. These organisms improve the entry and storage of water, resistance to erosion, plant nutrition, and break down of organic matter. A wide variety of organisms provides checks and balances to the soil food web through population control, mobility, and survival from season to season.

Objective: To identify the different types and number of macrofauna in different types of soil.

Variables: a) Manipulated b) Responding c) Fixed : Types of soil, volume of soil : Number of macrofauna, types of macrofauna : Technique used to collect macrofauna, temperature of surrounding

SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity

no deeper than about 3 cm). C and D). Procedure: 1) Two samples of leaf are collected from different locations (O-horizon.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems Material and Apparatus: Soil Sample (A. and mix organic matter with soils. Assessing macrofauna: Macrofauna accelerate the rate of organic matter decomposition. The sample is placed in plastic bags. A known volume is put on the sample in the Tulgren funnel. 3) The same procedures are followed. They break organic material into smaller pieces. Native vegetation. ethanol. However. hand lens. or other distinctive site was chosen from lawn. and removed after about 2days. microscope. the soil is mixed with the leaf litter sample from the same location thoroughly. garden bed. A horizon. B. petri dish. It is leaved for about 2 days. the relative number of macrofauna to microfauna in the soil is small. and then the preserving jar containing ethanol was removed and screwed on the lid.leaf litter. under different species of tree etc. tulgren funnel. Picture 1: Tulgren-type funnels for the extraction of soil fauna SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . 2) On return to the lab. sealed and labelled with student¶s name and collection location. The sample from the second location was placed in the Tulgren funnel.

). Lumbricus) SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . group B 8 legs ± spiders and mites etc. The results from both counts (1. 8) 9) The number of individuals was counted from each Order or group (as far as possible). 6) The number of individuals was counted from each order or group. and the numbers of individuals from each Order or group per cm3 of soil and leaf litter were calculated. group A no legs ± worms. Results: (a) Larger macro fauna Organisms No. (If you have large numbers you may need to estimate the number rather than try to count them all) 7) The contents of the collecting jar was emptied into a petri dish and as many organisms as possible was identified.2 and 1. All organisms were identified to order if possible.3) were used and the number of Orders or groups per cm3 of soil and leaf litter.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems 4) From the bags. Of Organisms 7 A (Earthworm. but at least put them into different groups (ie. 5) Any fauna found was removed to a clean jar or petri dish for identification. a measured volume of the leaf litter (O Horizon) and the topsoil (A Horizon) were examined using a microscope or hand lens.

Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems 2 B (White Flouse) 1 C (Unknown) SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .

Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems 3 D (Diatomaceous earth) 1 E (Scolopendra subspinipes) Table 1: Larger Macro fauna for our Group SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .

Lumbricus) E With horn Without horn C (Unknown) (Centipede.D.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems Larger Macro Fauna (A.E) With leg Without leg 6 legs 8 legs More than 8 legs A (Earthworm.B. Scolopendra subspinipes) B (White Flouse) D (Diatomaceous earth) Diagram 1: Classification of Larger Macro Fauna No. of Organisms A B Soil Sample C Group 6: 3/213 g D Group 3: 4/250 g Group 1: 4/402 g Macro fauna Group 2: 6/500 g Group 4: 14/750 g Group 5: 14/250 g Total (per gram) 0 38/1902 g 3/213 g 4/250 g Table 2: The overall Larger Macro Fauna (all group) SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .C.

Of Organisms 1 A 1 B SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems b) Smaller Macrofauna Organisms No.

Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems 1 C 1 D 3 E SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .

Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems 1 F 3 G Table 3: Smaller Macro fauna for in Sample B SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .

E.F.G) With leg Without leg 6 legs 8 legs 10 legs More than 10 legs C D B G Short body Medium body Long body A E F Diagram 2: Classification of Smaller Macrofauna No.C.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems Smaller Macrofauna (A.D.B. of Organisms A B Soil Sample C D Group 1: 4 Group 2: 2 Macro fauna Group 4: 5 Group 5: 7 Total (unit per gram) 0 18/1902 g 5/213 g 1/250 g Group 6: 5 Group 3: 1 Table 4: The overall Smaller Macro Fauna (all group) SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .

individuals of group C per cm3 soil/litter (8 legs) No. individuals of group D per cm soil/litter (more than 10 legs) 3 3 Soil Sample C 8 unit / 213 g = 0.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems c) Number of Order or groups per cm3 soil/litter Macrofauna B Number of orders or group per cm3 soil / litter No.0094 unit per g 1 unit / 250 g = 0.0005 unit per g 0 0 4 unit / 1902 g = 0.0188 unit per g 2 unit / 250 g = 0.0011 unit per g 0 1 unit / 250 g = 0.004 unit per g 3 unit / 1902 g = 0.004 unit per g SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . individuals of group B per cm3 soil/litter (6 legs) No. individuals of group D per cm soil/litter (10 legs) No.029 unit per g 2 unit / 1902 g = 0. individuals of group A per cm 3 soil/litter (without leg) No.004 unit per g 1 unit / 1902 g = 0.008 unit per g 2 unit / 1902 g = 0.0011 unit per g 1 unit / 213 g = 0.038 unit per g D 5 unit / 250 g = 0.0047 unit per g 1 unit / 250 g = 0.02 unit per g 56 unit / 1902 g = 0.0021 unit per g 2 unit / 213 g = 0.0012 unit per g 4 unit / 213 g = 0.

What soil parameters could you has measured which may help explain the differences? Different locations possess different type of macrofauna. and increase biological activity.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems Discussion: 1) How did the diversity (number of group and number of individuals) of macrofauna from the soils from the two locations differ? Can you suggest why there might to differences.edu/Courses/bio104/macrofauna) 2) Explain the role of macrofauna in the soil Function of macrofauna community performs in soils to produce diversity in biogenic soils structures that help regulate physicals properties and chemical process. The soils parameter that has to be measured in determining the differences are the human activities upon the soils and the minerals contain of the soils. Worm pulls leave a bit of death SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . Like lichen. there are small numbers of macrofauna that can be found in farm soils. (http://biology. all leading to increase the soils fertility and structural stability. From the result. Besides the food supply for the macrofauna also need to take into consideration since every macrofauna need food and energy to undergo their living processes.clc. logs or dead creatures. Example. grows on stones and woods and gradually break them down.uc. forest soils which are safer and more natural habitat for the macrofauana. favor decomposition. activities endangered by poor agriculture practices. It contains more soil biota and also isolated from human perturbation and activities. sample B soil contains more macrofauna compare to the other sample of soil. The pesticide used by the farmer put the macrofauna in line of danger. In other words. Thus. the macrofauna acts as natural ratters. They are called decomposers. They might be certain circumstances which lead to this phenomenon. the farm soils was exposed to the perturbation which made it as an insecure habitat for the macrofauna. Incorporation of the macrofauna and organic residues improve erosion protection. There are many different plants and animals that get to work straight away on natural rubbish like leaves. In other hand. This is due to the soils contents either it forest soils or garden soils.

cycle nutrients. the role of macrofauna is to decomposed organic matter and bind soil particles. As individual plants and soil organisms work to survive. enhance soil structure. damp place and feed on leaves and wood. While maggots that hatch from housefly eggs eat the body of death creatures while woodlice live in the dark.com/science?) Growing and reproducing are the primary activities of all living organisms.sciencedirect. Type of Soil Organism Photosynthesis Plants Algae Bacteria Decomposers Bacteria Fungi Mutualists Bacteria Fungi Pathogens Parasites Bacteria Fungi Nematodes Macro arthropods Root-feeders Nematodes Macro arthropods Bacterial-feeders Protozoa Nematodes Fungal-feeders Nematodes Major Functions Capture Energy Break down residue Enhance plant growth Promote disease Consume plant roots Graze Graze SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . With other words.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems plant down into the soils and eat them. they depend on interactions with each other. In turn. All this microorganisms had their own respective contribution upon the soils naturally. soil organisms support plant health as they decompose organic matter. and control the populations of soil organisms including crop pests. (http://www. Byproducts from growing roots and plant residue feed soil organisms.

mice. In this food chain. detritus consumers are consume by the small predator like small bird and rats. the top of the food chain). fungi. (http://www. This food chain does not exist in isolation and normally interconnect with the food wed. Detritivores are animals that feed on detritus. leaf shredder etc) and describe which way the energy ³flows¶ e. What happens to the energy and nutrients when the organisms at the top of food chain die? Include this diagram with your report. label the type of biota (e.) what they do (predator. Examples are earthworm. the grass become a dead organic matter and consumed by detivores consumer. Only then.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems Macro arthropods Shredders Earthworms Macro arthropods Higher-level predators Nematode-feeding nematodes Larger arthropods.jpg) 3) On the food web diagrams provided.g. birds Break down residue and enhance soil structure Control populations Functions of Soil Organisms (http://soils. Only 1-5 % of the solar energy is converted into the biomass in the produces. shrews. Consumers are organisms that depend on the producers for energy. decomposer and detritivores.g. it is the combination of the parasitic food web and predatory food web. Primary producer are autotrophs (grass) that can trap the sun¶s energy and use it for photosynthesis.gov/SQI/concepts/soil_biology/images/A-4.net) SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . voles. They include animal.usda. millipede and woodlouse. nematode etc. Check DSO Resources. where does it first get ³captured´ and where does it ³finish´ (ie. Like in the food web diagram. They break down detritus into small particles.slideshare.

Energy diminish as it moving from one phase to another phase and at last loss as heat and need to be replaced by energy from the sun. springtails (related to insects). Larger animals also found in the soil are called mesofauna. Out of the estimated 10-20 million animal species in the SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . arthropods. the energy and nutrient will not disappeared yet it will go back to the soils as the source of nutrient to the soils itself. due to their small size and great diversity. The organisms which normally assumed as the unsanitary pests will perform their ecological important role by feed on the rotten death animal¶s body and earth will soon be piled with high organic waste. Usually microfauna are defined as creatures smaller than 0. and tardigrades.gov/SQI/concepts/soil_biology) *(Refer to Appendix 1) 4) What groups of the organisms make up the mesofauna? What groups make up the microfauna? What are the main functions of these two main groups? Microfauna are small animals and unicellular organisms visible only under a microscope. Energy transfer is not like carbon and nitrogen transfer which flows through the ecosystem in continuous cycle. rotifers (named for their wheel-like ciliated mouthparts). 90% of the energy is loss to the environment as heats. mites (among the most diverse and successful of all animals). Many microfauna are members of the so-called "cryptozoa. nematodes (transparent wormlike creatures). though definitions may vary." animals that remain undescribed by science. also known as "water bears. and large nematodes.1 mm and 2 mm in size.usda. The microfauna are the least understood of soil life.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems When organisms at the top of foods web die (birds and mole). However.1 mm (100 microns) in size. The transfer of energy in ecosystem can be traced from one level to one level. Microfauna can be found worldwide. such as earthworms. and the macrofauna." one of the hardiest organisms in nature. which includes burrowing mammals like moles and rabbits. with mesofauna as organisms between 0. Some of the most common and important microfauna are protozoa (unicellular eukaryotes). (http://soils. wherever there is wet soil and some other places as well. during the transferences of the energy. This is where the maggot plays their role as the natural decomposer.

hometrainingtools. and many of the remaining millions are likely microfauna. Some microfauna are sessile.8 million have been given scientific names.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems world. These animals fertilize their mates by releasing ciliated sperm.com/articles/soil_health) SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . while they themselves stay put. nitrogen. 2008) 5) Food webs can indicate the biological complexity. Micro-organisms transform organic matter into plant nutrients that are assimilated by plant and mesofauna helps in breakdown the soils particles as well as the source of nutrient when they die and decomposed by the decomposer. only 1. and therefore the health of the soil. our land management introduce one of the new way to reduce the number of pest in farm naturally is pest biology control. Pests have predators to.up to 10 times cheaper than pesticide. phosphorus and potassium can be retained. Since the health of soils are depend on the food web which indicate the biological complexity. The main function of these two groups is able to decompose almost any existing natural material. Biological method of pest control is not only safer. They also introduce the way of planting different type of plant on the same land accordingly. (http://www.com/articles/organism) Microfauna live in tiny pores in between grains of soil. This is on purpose to ensure the three important mineral in the soils.hometrainingtools. (Lee Ching. Explain how our land management practices alter soil health. and many are aquatic. meaning they attach to a substrate their entire lives and never move. much of it from the tropics. (http://www. and it is possible to make use of them to reduce pest number dramatically. they are often more economical.

leaving behind mounds of fine soils called worm casts.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems 6) Explain how the soil biotas contribute to the functioning of the soil ecosystem. the biota helps to form the oxygen flows by burrowing of fragmenting the soils. They are also contributing in changing the pH level of the soils by their activities. You can watch worms pull leaves and death plants down into the soils to munch. they eat soils. What ecosystem services do they regulate? Soils biota contributes to the health of the soils. (Lee Ching. 2008) Conclusion: There have many types of macrofauna in the soil. Therefore. SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity . As we know. Soil sample B has larger number of macrofauna compared to the other sample of soil. We took an example worms burrow along under the ground. the soils which contain the big amount of oxygen are the best soils for agricultural purposes. Thus. Soil contains a lot of substances which needed by macrofauna to survive. soil which contains more substances or food will has more macrofauna can be found.

com/articles/soil_health on 22 July 2010.usda.clc.Practical 1: Soil Ecosystems References: Books: Lee Ching and J.com/science? on 22 July 2010. Retrieve from http://soils. Soil Biology.slideshare. Retrieve from http://www. Retrieve from http://biology. SPM Biology. SCE3107: Ecosystems and Biodiversity .hometrainingtools.uc. Betsy Teh Lay Hong (2004). Longman: Selangor.sciencedirect. Arunasalam (2008). Macrofauna.jpg on 27 July 2010.gov/SQI/concepts/soil_biology/images/A-4.gov/SQI/concepts/soil_biology on 27 July 2010. Role of Macrofauna. Soil Biology. Retrieve from http://soils. Land Management. Retrieve from http://www. Pre-U Text STPM Biology Volume 2. Internet: Food Chain.edu/Courses/bio104/macrofauna on 27 July 2010.usda. Longman: Selangor.net on 22 July 2010. Retrieve from http://www.

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