Responses of nematode abundances to increased and reduced rainfall under field conditions: A meta-analysis

Dylan Bristol, Kamrul Hassan, Joseph C. Blankinship, Uffe N. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ecosystems are projected to experience altered precipitation patterns associated with climate change, with some areas becoming wetter and others drier. Both above- and belowground communities will be impacted by such rainfall changes, yet research has predominantly focused on the flora and fauna aboveground. Still, there is a growing body of literature for the effects of altered precipitation on soil fauna. Nematodes are diverse and abundant in most soils, represent multiple trophic levels, and influence essential soil processes, making this group a good proxy for broader impacts on soil food webs. Hence, we assessed the effects of increased and reduced rainfall amount on total and trophic-level abundances of nematodes using a meta-analytical approach based on 46 independent observations from 37 field studies and tested whether effects differed among ecosystem types and with treatment duration (<1 year, short term; >1 year, long term). Overall, total and trophic group's abundances, except fungal feeders, were negatively impacted by reduced rainfall irrespectively of treatment duration. Increased rainfall had a positive effect on total abundances and plant parasitic nematodes, but only in longer term studies (>1 year). The impacts of altered rainfall were consistent across the ecosystems studied; however, most studies focus on grasslands and deserts, making it difficult to draw broad generalizations. Reductions in rainfall are therefore likely to decrease soil nematode abundance, with less pronounced effects on fungal feeders. Increased rainfall, on the other hand, may favor plant parasites, likely due to increased plant productivity. Hence, projections of reduced rainfall will have significant negative impacts on nematode abundances, at least in grasslands and deserts, with cascading effects on soil processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere4364
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • ecosystem function
  • ecosystem process
  • experimental duration
  • nematode trophic groups
  • rainfall regime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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