Sensitivity of Nematode Life-History Groups to Ions and Osmotic Tensions of Nitrogenous Solutions

Mario Tenuta, Howard Ferris


Guild designation of nematodes of similar trophic function and life-history strategy provides a basis for using nematode faunal analyses in an integrative assessment of soil food web condition. Omnivorous and predaceous nematodes, categorized at the upper end of a colonizer-persister (c-p) continuum of nematode functional guilds are generally not abundant in cropped soil. These nematodes are more sensitive to heavy metal concentrations than those in other c-p groups, but whether sensitivity to agrochemicals contributes to the observed low abundance of high c-p groups in cropped soils is less well understood. An exposure assay in solution was used to compare the sensitivity of nematodes representing various guilds obtained from field soils and from laboratory culture to several nitrogen sources. Nematodes in c-p groups 4 and 5 were more sensitive to nitrogen solutions than nematodes representing lower c-p groups. There were both osmotic and specific ion effects-the latter most evident in exposure of nematodes to NaNO[sub2] and (NH[sub4])[sub2]SO[sub4]. The RC[sub5][sub0] (concentration resulting in nematode recovery of one half of that of distilled water) for (NH[sub4])[sub2]SO[sub4] was 0.052 M-N for c-p groups 4 and 5 compared to much greater values (0.34 to 0.81 M-N) for c-p groups 1 to 3. In non-ionic polyethylene glycol (PEG) solutions, osmotic tensions of 0.40 to 0.43 MPa reduced the recovery of exposed nematodes by half (RT[sub5][sub0]; water potential of solution resulting in nematode recovery of one half of that of distilled water) for c-p groups 4 and 5 compared to 1.93 MPa for c-p groups 1 to 3. RT[sub5][sub0] values for urea solutions, also non-ionic, were greater than for PEG. Caenorhabditis elegans N2 (c-p 1) and Meloidogyne javanica (c-p 3) reared on solid medium and in hydroponic culture, respectively, were slightly more sensitive to specific ion and osmotic effects than nematodes of similar c-p groups obtained from soil. The greater sensitivity of c-p 4 and 5 nematodes to nitrogen solutions suggests that fertilizers may contribute to the low abundance of these nematodes in annual cropping systems. This study supports the use of nematode faunal analyses as indicators of chemical stress in soil.


c-p grouping; nematode faunal analysis; nitrogen; osmotic tension; sensitivity

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