On to the third and fourth trophic level of the soil food web! The third and fourth level of the SFW denotes the higher levels of predators who are nematodes and arthropods.
Their role in the soil is to keep the nutrients cycling by consuming other organisms who are smaller than they are such as bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and smaller nematodes and arthropods.
Nematodes are blind roundworms who mineralize nutrients contained in anything that can fit in their mouths; bacteria, protozoa, fungi, or other nematodes. Nematodes are larger than protozoa, with lengths averaging 2 millimeters and diameters of 50 micrometers. In order to see nematodes, that reside in soil with a naked eye, you’ll need a microscope.
Arthropods are flies, beetles, and spiders to name a few. Arthropods are king in the soil food web since they help mineralize nutrients and maintain the balance of the soil food web, eat smaller microbes, shred dead organic material, and function as microbial taxi cabs. Arthropods make up three-fourths of all living organisms in the soil, but protozoa and nematodes take lead in terms of biomass.
“They recycle up to 30% of the leaves and woody debris deposited on a temperate zone forest floor.” – Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis
If there is an insufficient amount of dead organic matter available, these helpful microbes will turn to living sources of organic nutrients, making them seem like parasites. This excludes moles, crickets, root maggots, and cicadas. They will turn to living organic nutrients, such as roots, even if there’s enough dead organic matter.
Arthropods carry out their daily routine on the surface of the soil, unlike their other comrades.
It’s a microbe eat microbe world down there.
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