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Title: The impact of native and exotic plants on soil biodiversity and ecosystem function
Author: Bird, Stephanie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 4952
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2016
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Soil biodiversity is an often overlooked component of global biodiversity, despite being important for supporting soil ecosystem services, notably decomposition processes. As the UK becomes increasingly urbanised, knowledge is required to help gardeners maximise urban green space resources for biodiversity. It is often assumed that non native vegetation has negative impacts on biodiversity, however, this hypothesis has not been tested for soil biodiversity. The overarching aims were to establish whether the geographical origin of vegetation affected soil faunal assemblages and decomposition rates for a UK soil. Traditional taxonomic methods and a molecular phylogenetic approach were used to characterise the Collembola communities of plots planted with vegetation from three geographical regions: ‘Native’, ‘Near native’ and ‘Exotic’. For comparison, additional soil cores were collected from the amenity grassland sites adjacent to the experimental plots, a lowland heath and a semi-natural woodland. No difference was found either in terms of the taxonomic diversity (1-D & H’) or phylogenetic diversity (PD & MPD) for the Collembola, under the different vegetation treatments, although differences in abundance were observed for some taxa (Acari & Collembola). Decomposition rates were assessed for each plot, using both twig (B. pendula) and leaf (Q. robur) litter bags for the soil mesofauna and bait lamina strips for earthworm activity; none of these parameters showed evidence of a vegetation origin effect on decomposition processes. The greatest differences were found when all sites were considered, with distinct Collembola communities found at each of the habitats; the semi-natural habitats had greater Collembola species diversity than the experimental plots, however, the decomposition rates of the latter were significantly higher. The implications of all results have been discussed with regards to the management of gardens for soil biodiversity, reaching the conclusion that vegetation origin is not of paramount importance.
Supervisor: Shaw, Peter ; Ozanne, Claire ; Salisbury, Andrew Sponsor: Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: biodiversity ; Soil biodiversity ; soil fauna ; ecosystem