The soil is a component of the biosphere that is fundamental to agriculture and in which nematodes play a key role. Nematodes are hugely beneficial to plant growth by aiding the cycling of nutrients due to their interaction with other soil microbes (bacteria and fungi).
They can also be used as biological indicators as nematode community structure can be indicative of soil health. However, not all nematode species are beneficial and many live as parasites on plant roots.
From the perspective of ecosystem services, the tri-trophic interactions between plant roots, plant-parasitic nematodes and their natural enemies is of interest. For example, coastal sand dunes provide a simplified habitat initiated by marram grass (Ammophila arenaria) which stabilises the sand and starts a process of plant succession.
The formation of sand dunes is of global importance for coastal defences (ecosystem service) and because plant-parasitic nematodes can inhibit their establishment, there is a need to understand the interactions between marram grass, their plant parasitic nematodes, and their natural enemies. Knowledge gained from such fundamental studies is not only important for coastal defences but can also be generalised to other agricultural and horticultural situations.
Costa SR, Kerry BR, Bardgett RD & Davies KG (2012) Interactions between nematodes and their microbial enemies in coastal sand dunes Oecologia DOI 10.1007/s00442-012-2359-z.
van der Putten, W.H. Cook, R., Costa, S., Davies, K.G. et al. (2006) Nematode Interactions in Nature: models for sustainable control of nematode pests of crop plants. Advances in Agronomy 89, 227 – 260.