Plant parasitic nematodes are among the greatest consumers of primary production in terrestrial ecosystems. Their feeding strategies can be divided into endoparasites and ectoparasites that differ substantially, not only in their damage potential to host tissue and primary production, but also in their susceptibility to environmental changes. Climate change is predicted to increase variability of precipitation in many systems, yet the effects on belowground biodiversity and associated impacts on primary productivity remain poorly understood. To examine the impact of altered precipitation on endo- and ectoparasitic soil nematodes, we conducted a 2-year precipitation manipulation study across an arid, a semiarid, and a mesic grassland. Plant parasite feeding type abundance, functional guilds, and herbivory index in response to precipitation were evaluated. Responses of endo- and ectoparasites to increased precipitation varied by grassland type. There was little response of ectoparasites to increased precipitation although their population declined at the mesic site with increased precipitation. The abundance of endoparasites remained unchanged with increasing precipitation at the arid site, increased at the semiarid, and decreased at the mesic site. The herbivory index followed closely the trends seen in the endoparasites response by stagnating at the arid site, increasing at the semiarid, and decreasing at the mesic site. Our findings suggest that altered precipitation has differing effects on plant parasite feeding strategies as well as functional guilds. This may have important implications for grassland productivity, as plant parasite pressure may exacerbate the effects of climate change on host plants.
- Climate change
- Soil fauna
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics