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Annu Rev Phytopathol. 2010;48:371-94. doi: 10.1146/annurev-phyto-073009-114439.

Ecology of plant and free-living nematodes in natural and agricultural soil.

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Department of Plant & Soil Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA.


Nematodes are aquatic organisms that depend on thin water films to live and move within existing pathways of soil pores of 25-100 mum diameter. Soil nematodes can be a tool for testing ecological hypotheses and understanding biological mechanisms in soil because of their central role in the soil food web and linkage to ecological processes. Ecological succession is one of the most tested community ecology concepts, and a variety of nematode community indices have been proposed for purposes of environmental monitoring. In contrast, theories of biogeography, colonization, optimal foraging, and niche partitioning by nematodes are poorly understood. Ecological hypotheses related to strategies of coexistence of nematode species sharing the same resource have potential uses for more effective biological control and use of organic amendments to foster disease suppression. Essential research is needed on nematodes in natural and agricultural soils to synchronize nutrient release and availability relative to plant needs, to test ecological hypotheses, to apply optimal foraging and niche partitioning strategies for more effective biological control, to blend organic amendments to foster disease suppression, to monitor environmental and restoration status, and to develop better predictive models for land-use decisions.

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