Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Biology

Supervisor

Dr Zoe Lindo

Abstract

Land-use changes can have far-reaching consequences for resident communities and ecosystem functioning. Developing appropriate assessment methods to observe and quantify this change is an important application of community ecology. Here I compare four methods of community assessment for free-living soil nematodes under forest harvesting disturbance and wood ash application. Neither morphological assessment (richness, abundance, diversity) nor molecular assessment (morpho-richness using T-RFLP) was responsive to experimental treatments. Trait-based approaches (Maturity Index (MI) and Body Size Spectra (BSS)) were more sensitive to forest harvest and wood-ash amendment treatments. The efficacy of these methods was also qualitatively compared. Of all methods, the BSS were found to be the most informative and easiest to implement. Morphological assessment and the MI rely strongly on rare taxonomic expertise and T-RFLP requires considerable optimisation to be effective. The use of trait-based approaches for soil fauna is advocated as an accessible tool for community ecologists, especially those interested in taxonomically difficult groups.


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