European Journal of Soil Biology, Volume 73, March 01, 2016,
Annelids (Lumbricidae and Enchytraeidae) and nematodes are common soil organisms and play important roles in organic matter decomposition, nutrient cycling and creation of soil structure and porosity. However, these three groups have rarely been studied together and only few studies exist for urban soils. We studied the diversity and community composition of annelids and nematodes in soils spanning more than two centuries of urban soil development in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and assessed the relationships 1) among these three groups and 2) between each group and environmental (physical, chemical and functional) characteristics of soils and soil age. While the groups of environmental variables were correlated (Mantel tests) no correlation was found between pairs of soil fauna groups and between each soil fauna group and environmental variables. More specifically, redundancy analyses showed that earthworm assemblages were best correlated with soil bulk density and with soil depth, the latter being positively correlated with soil age. Enchytraeid assemblages and the proportion of enchytraeid r-strategists were respectively best correlated with soil carbonate content and negatively correlated with soil age. Nematodes assemblages were best correlated with soil water content. Moreover, relationships between pairs of soil biota groups, and between each group and environmental (physical, chemical and functional) variables, varied along the soil age gradient (moving window analysis).This study provides new knowledge on urban soil biodiversity and how environmental conditions can influence soil diversity and community patterns in the urban context. The contrasted community patterns of earthworms, enchytraeids and nematodes in urban soils of different ages and their different ecological roles suggest that they represent potential complementary indicators of soil quality and functioning such as soil formation and organic matter dynamics.