We investigated the influence of fungivorous soil invertebrates on seedling emergence from soil mesocosms buried in a ruderal grassland. Two out of three tested plant species, Centaurea nigra and Origanum vulgare, had a higher seedling emergence when we added the fungivorous collembolan Protaphorura fimata to mesocosms, compared to a control treatment where we excluded soil mesofauna by using defaunated soil and preventing re-colonization from the ambient soil. P. fimata increased seedling emergence to a similar extent as a treatment of the seeds with the fungicide Aathiram. In contrast, a treatment designed to allow re-colonization of defaunated soil from the ambient soil did not result in increased seedling emergence compared to the control treatment. In a third plant species, Anthriscus sylvestris, overall seedling emergence was too low for any significant treatment effects to be detected. This study corroborates the findings of a previous experiment carried out in the laboratory to explore the influence of P. fimata on seed mortality under controlled environmental conditions and shows that there are similar effects on seedling emergence under field climatic conditions.
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