Experimental warming of bryophytes increases the population density of the nematode Plectus belgicae in maritime Antarctica
Despite nematodes routinely being the most frequent soil- and bryophyte-associated animals in maritime Antarctica, there is a lack of clarity about the influence of warming on their populations in the region. Here, we report the results of a field experiment on Adelaide Island that tested the effects of warming with open-top chambers (OTCs) for 37 months on nematodes associated with the bryophytes Cephaloziella varians and Sanionia uncinata. Over the experiment's duration, OTCs increased the population density of the nematode Plectus belgicae in mats of both bryophytes by six-fold, with four- to seven-fold increases in the abundances of male, female and juvenile P. belgicae in warmed mats, and with the largest effects on the abundances of juveniles. Despite C. varians, which is black in colour, warming to a greater extent than S. uncinata during summer, no interactive effects of OTCs and bryophyte species were recorded on the population density of P. belgicae. Our results corroborate a previous study showing that warming increases Plectus population densities in maritime Antarctic soils, with implications for the region's terrestrial food webs.
Authors: Newsham, Kevin K. ORCID record for Kevin K. Newsham, Hall, Richard J., Maslen, N. Rolf