© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Soil fauna play a fundamental role on key ecosystem functions like organic matter decomposition, although how local assemblages are responding to climate change and whether these changes may have consequences to ecosystem functioning is less clear. Previous studies have revealed that a continued environmental stress may result in poorer communities by filtering out the most sensitive species. However, these experiments have rarely been applied to climate change factors combining multiyear and multisite standardized field treatments across climatically contrasting regions, which has limited drawing general conclusions. Moreover, other facets of biodiversity, such as functional and phylogenetic diversity, potentially more closely linked to ecosystem functioning, have been largely neglected. Here, we report that the abundance, species richness, phylogenetic diversity, and functional richness of springtails (Subclass Collembola), a major group of fungivores and detritivores, decreased within 4 years of experimental drought across six European shrublands. The loss of phylogenetic and functional richness was higher than expected by the loss of species richness, leading to communities of phylogenetically similar species sharing evolutionary conserved traits. Additionally, despite the great climatic differences among study sites, we found that taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional richness of springtail communities alone were able to explain up to 30% of the variation in annual decomposition rates. Altogether, our results suggest that the forecasted reductions in precipitation associated with climate change may erode springtail communities and likely other drought-sensitive soil invertebrates, thereby retarding litter decomposition and nutrient cycling in ecosystems.
- biodiversity-ecosystem functioning
- climate change
- litter decomposition
- soil fauna