Abstract - Plant-Herbivore Interactions in a North American Mixed-grass Prairie, III. Soil Nematode Populations and Root Biomass on Cynomys ludovicianus Colonies and Adjacent Uncolonized Areas

Ingham, R.E. and Detling, J.K. 1984. Plant-Herbivore Interactions in a North American Mixed-Grass Prairie, III. Soil nematode populations and root biomass on Cynomys ludovicianus colonies and adjacent uncolonized areas. Oecologia 63. pp 307-313.


Seasonal dynamics of soil nematodes and root biomass were examined from under western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii) and little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius) from a heavily grazed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colony occupied for 5 to 10 years and an adjacent lightly grazed, uncolonized area in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, USA. Nematodes were differentiated into classes of plant-parasitic Tylenchida and Dorylaimida and nonparasitic Dorylamida and Rhabditida. Root-feeding nematodes were generally more numerous from A. smithii than from A. scoparius, while nonparasitic populations were not different in soil from beneath the two plant species. Rhabditida, parasitic Dorylaimida and Tylenchida (from A. scoparius only) were more numerous on the prairie dog colony than from the uncolonized site, but nonparasitic Dorylaimida populations did not differ between the two areas. Mean total (live plus dead) root biomass beneath A. scoparius and A. smithii on the prairie dog colonly averaged 71% and 81%, respectively, of values from the uncolonized area. Estimated consumption by root-feeding nematodes averaged 12.6% and 5.8% of annual net root production in the upper 10 cm from the prairie dog colony and uncolonized site, respectively. We conclude that, because of microhabitat modification or reductions in plant resistance to nematodes, heavy grazing by aboveground herbivores apparently facilitates grazing by belowground herbivores. Because heavily grazed plants have less roots than lightly grazed or ungrazed plants, the impact of root-feeding nematodes on primary producers is likely to be greatest in heavily grazed grasslands.

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