The relation of particular species of Acari with soil functions regarding organic matter decomposition and nutrient recycling is not clear. Furthermore it is not known if distinguishable Acari species are more efficient to lead to an increase in the rate of mass loss of leaf litter or to favour the development of the microflora on leaf litter. We tackled this dilemma by growing selected mites on defaunated leaf litter of Austrocedrus chilensis. We tested for changes in the biomass of leaf litter in the presence or the absence of the mites. We used four species of oribatid mites which are usual inhabitants of the leaf litter of Austrocedrus chilensis in forests of Argentina´s Northwestern Patagonia: Anderemaeus magellanis, Cosmochthonius semifoveolatus, Lanceoppia kovacsi and Nothrus peruensis. After 3 months, the development of fungal growth in the presence of mites was evident. Containers with only C. semifoveolatus and L. kovacsi showed greater development of fungal biomass than those with A. magellanis or N. peruensis, evidencing specific differences in the enhancement effect. In the presence of C. semifoveolatus, mycelial diversity diminished with respect to the blank favoring only the development of septate brown hyphae of Ascomycota. We found no significant differences between the fungal growth enhancement provoked by L. kovacsi and C. semifoveolatus. Entanglement of fragments and propagules of fungi among the branched setae of C. semifoveolatus could account for the enhancement of fungal growth. Repeated contact of faster L. kovacsi specimens with mycelia and adherence of mycelial fragments and fungi propagules on mite bodies could account for the effect. Mite size was also related to the fungal growth enhancement as smaller mites were more efficient in fungal growth enhancement. Our results showed that fungal growth is more intensive in the presence of mites than in their absence and that oribatid mites have a role in shaping the communities of fungi in soil.
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