Labile soil organic matter (SOM) is an important energy source for below-ground ecosystems but the association of labile SOM and nematode communities is poorly characterised. In this study, soil nematode communities and nematode-derived indices of ecosystem function were characterised and related to SOM lability in an undisturbed riparian woodland (California, USA). SOM lability was assessed by microbial biomass C (MBC), permanganate-oxidisable C (POXC), extractable organic C (EOC), and diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform (DRIFT) spectroscopy. The channel index, which measures the ratio of bacterial-feeding to fungal-feeding nematodes in cp groups 1 and 2, respectively, decreased with labile C fractions and aliphatic C-H enrichment (infrared absorbance at 2920 cm−1) but increased with aromatic C=C enrichment (1620 cm−1) and index of decomposition (2930:1620 cm−1), as did the nematode structure index. These results indicate that nematode communities respond to variation in labile C fractions and SOM composition across a heterogeneous natural landscape, which may reflect observed differences in SOM lability among woody plant species.
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