Plant Pathology Department


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Nematology 38(1):20–27. 2006. Copyright © The Society of Nematologists 2006. Used by permission.


Changes in land use and the associated changes in land cover are recognized as the most important component of human-induced global change. Much attention has been focused on deforestation, but grasslands are among the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. The North American tallgrass prairie is a dramatic example, exhibiting a greater than 95% decline in historical area. Renewed interest in prairie conservation and restoration has highlighted the need for ecological indicators of disturbance and recovery in native systems, including the below ground component. The tallgrass prairie differs from the agricultural systems that have replaced it in having greater diversity and heterogeneity of resources, less physical soil disturbance (although other disturbances, such as fire and grazing, are prominent), and greater nitrogen limitation. Understanding the responses of nematode taxa to these characteristic differences is crucial to the development and improvement of community indices, but while knowledge of disturbance responses by individual taxa is accumulating, the level of necessary taxonomic resolution remains in question. Although nematode communities generally are better described for temperate grasslands than for other natural ecosystems, identification of sentinel taxa is further confounded by high levels of diversity, and both spatial and temporal heterogeneity.