Soil protists play fundamental roles in many earth system processes, yet we are only beginning to understand the true diversity of the organisms involved. In this study we used conventional (microscopy-based) methods to characterise the diversity and estimate protist population sizes in soils from a variety of distinct habitats within Mere Sands Wood nature reserve in NW England. We produced population size data for over ninety soil protists belonging to two major eukaryotic functional groups: testate amoebae (TA) and diatoms, adding substantial ‘cryptic diversity’ to the nature reserves recorded biota. From these population size data we estimated relative contributions of TA and diatoms to soil biogenic silicon (BSi) pools and found significant correlations between taxon richness and the TA and diatom Si pool. This could indicate that protist functional diversity can influence terrestrial BSi pools, especially in early successional plant communities where TA and diatoms can potentially increase Si mineralisation and/or create Si ‘hot spots’ and hence, the biological availability of this element for subsequent plant uptake. TA were particularly abundant in mor humus type soils further supporting the idea that they could be important players in nutrient cycling in such soils. Overall, we demonstrate this is a useful approach in order to start to attempt to estimate the role of protists in the Si cycle and other ecological processes.
|Early online date||4 Feb 2016|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 4 Feb 2016|