The response of species numbers and density of Collembola to manipulation of plant species richness (1, 2, 4, 8, 32 species) and number of plant functional groups (grasses, legumes and non-legume herbs) was studied in an experimental grassland at the Swiss BIODEPTH site (Lupsingen, Switzerland) in October 1997. Plant species richness or number of plant functional groups did not affect total diversity of Collembola, however, the number of Collembola species increased in the presence of legumes and the grass Trisetum flavescens. The abundance of Protaphorura armata increased but that of Hypogastruridae/Neanuridae significantly decreased with increasing number of plant functional groups. Other groups including the herbivorous Symphypleona did not respond to plant species richness and plant functional groups. Possibly, Hypogastruridae/Neanuridae species are weak competitors declining in density if the density of other Collembola groups increase. In general, the effect of the number of plant functional groups on the densities of collembolan taxa was stronger than that of plant species richness. Changes in Collembola density and diversity in part was likely caused by increased soil microbial and fine root biomass in treatments with higher plant functional group diversity. The presence of legumes resulted in an increase in the densities of total Collembola, Symphypleona/Neelipleona and Isotomidae indicating that they benefited from the high litter quality and the increased microbial biomass in the rhizosphere of legumes. The results suggest that microbivorous soil invertebrates are controlled by food quality rather than quantity. Furthermore, they indicate that presence of certain plant species and functional groups may be more important for collembolan community structure than the diversity of plant species and functional groups per se.
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