Short-term mesofauna responses to soil additions of corn stover biochar and the role of microbial biomass

Xavier Domene, Kelly Hanley, Akio Enders, Johannes Lehmann

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48 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Biochar additions have been suggested to influence soil microbial communities that, through a cascade effect, may also impact soil fauna. In turn, any direct biochar effects on fauna can influence microbial communities through grazing, physical fragmentation of organic debris (and biochar) and modifying soil structure. If biochar creates a favorable environment for soil microorganisms, it is also plausible for fauna to be attracted to such microbially enriched habitats. However, how soil fauna respond to biochar addition to soil and what are the main factors that drive their behavior has rarely been experimentally addressed. Therefore, the behavior of two mesofauna species was assessed as a result of corn stover biochar (slow pyrolysis at 600°C) additions to a loamy temperate soil, after preincubation for 2, 17, 31 and 61d, and related to variations in microbial biomass and activity. Microbial biomass increased by 5-56% and activity by 6-156% with increasing biochar rates for the different preincubation times. Over the incubation time, microbial biomass did not change or increased at most 15% with the different biochar rates, while in turn microbial activity decreased steadily (around 70-80% at day 61). Enchytraeids generally did not show avoidance or preference to biochar when provided with an alternative unamended soil, while collembolans often showed avoidance responses. However, collembolan avoidance to biochar decreased or disappeared in biochar mixtures with higher microbial biomass and soluble NH4-N content, agreeing with the plausible role of microorganisms to potentially attract soil fauna after biochar applications. Avoidance response was mainly explained by environmental preferences of the test species and not by any toxic effect of the biochar in this study. However, avoidance after the application of biochar may still need to be considered due to the potential negative impacts of individuals' migration on soil ecosystem functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-17
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • Ammonium
  • Avoidance
  • Behavior
  • Biochar
  • Microbial biomass
  • Soil fauna


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