Effects of cultivation on the habitat, microclimate and food supply of soil biota:

Freshly ploughed soil.

  • Burial of the protective layer of dead plants on the soil surface. This affects the living space for litter-dwellers and the soil microclimate (increased soil moisture loss and extremes of temperature)
  • Physical disruption of soil habitat e.g. pore channel continuity, pore size - this limits the mobility of those animals which do not tunnel
  • Physical injury to animals
  • Reduction of organic matter levels in soil
  • Inversion of soil brings animals to surface where they desiccate and are eaten by birds
  • Inversion of soil traps smaller soil biota

Effects of cultivation on soil organisms

  • Numbers of large animals (earthworms, millipedes) are lowered and they can take up to two years to recover to pre-cultivation levels because they have long life cycles. Cropping soils that are repeatedly cultivated have fewer earthworms.
  • Microarthropod numbers (springtails, mites) can also decline by 50% after cultivation. They can recover their original numbers within 6 months as they have short life cycles.
  • Soil microbial biomass declines after cultivation probably as a result of the reduced soil organic matter levels, their energy source. Microbial biomass can also be reduced, in part, by the physical disruption of extensive fungal hyphal networks.