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Abstract

In this study the effect of different grassland managements (cattle grazing with different intensities and mowing) on soil mesofauna, i.e. mites (Acari) and springtails (Collembola), was studied. Mites and springtails are the most numerous representatives of soil mesofauna organisms living in the upper soil layers (up to 5 cm). Soil mesofauna groups or species are commonly used as bioindicators of soil health. The experiment was carried out from 2007 to 2009 in the West Sudety Mountains, Poland. Pastures and meadows were under organic farming management, without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and restricted livestock density. Soil samples were taken three times a year (in May−June, July and October) from pastures grazed at different frequencies: once, twice and four times a year, alternate management (grazed and mown pasture) and mown meadow. Mites were identified according to orders or suborders (Oribatida, Gamasida, Prostigmata, Astigmata), while springtails to the species level. The data were analysed using a general linear model (GLM). The mesofauna taxa in relation to the treatment and date were analysed with the canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). The data from three years showed that most soil mesofauna assemblages occurred in significantly higher numbers on the pasture grazed once or twice and on alternate managed pasture than in pasture grazed four times a year and mown meadow. The CCA analysis showed the preference of most springtail species to pasture grazed once a year, while mites preferred pasture grazed twice a year and alternate management. The number of species and the abundance of the most numerous species (Protaphorura pannonica, Desoria multisetis and Folsomides parvulus) did not differ significantly between treatments. To summarize, cattle grazing once or twice a season or alternate management (grazing and mowing once a season) have a positive impact on soil mesofauna.
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