Interactions Between Bacteria, Protozoa and Nematodes in Soil

Regin Rønn,

Mette Vestergård,

Flemming Ekelund


Bacteria, protozoa and nematodes interact closely in soil ecosystems. Protozoa and nematodes eat bacteria (and occasionally each other), while bacteria defend themselves using chemical substances, resistant cell walls, irregular shapes and motility. Protozoa and nematodes are very different types of organisms, and hence apply very different feeding mechanisms; thus many protozoa can pick and choose individual bacterial cells, whereas nematodes ingest bacterial patches more uncritically. Protozoa and nematode are both aquatic organisms whose activity depends on available soil water, but differences in size, motility, resting stages and reproductive strategies mean that the soil physico-chemical environment influences the activity of protozoa and nematodes differently. For example, the relative importance of protozoa compared to nematodes may shift towards protozoa in very clay-rich soils. The interactions between the three organism groups have major ecological consequences such as modification of the bacterial communities and increased nitrogen mineralisation, both of which affect plant growth. Increased nitrogen mineralisation will usually be beneficial for plant growth, whereas the grazing induced changes in the bacterial communities can be both beneficial and detrimental to plants. Selective protozoan grazing can favour plant inhibiting bacteria. This may be a problem in clay rich soils where protozoa have better life conditions than nematodes.

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