Reducing tillage intensity benefits the soil micro‐ and mesofauna in a global meta‐analysis (2022)

Betancur‐Corredor B., Lang B., Russell D.

European Journal of Soil Science, 73 (6),



Soil fauna drives crucial processes of energy and nutrient cycling in agricultural systems, and influences the quality of crops and pest incidence. Soil tillage is the most influential agricultural manipulation of soil structure, and has a profound influence on soil biology and its provision of ecosystem services. The objective of this study was to quantify through meta-analyses the effects of reducing tillage intensity on density and diversity of soil micro- and mesofaunal communities, and how these effects vary among different pedoclimatic conditions and interact with concurrent management practices. We present the results of a global meta-analysis of available literature data on the effects of different tillage intensities on taxonomic and functional groups of soil micro- and mesofauna. We collected paired observations (conventional vs. reduced forms of tillage/no-tillage) from 133 studies across 33 countries. Our results show that reduced tillage intensity or no-tillage increases the total density of springtails (+35%), mites (+23%), and enchytraeids (+37%) compared to more intense tillage methods. The meta-analyses for different nematode feeding groups, life-forms of springtails, and taxonomic mite groups showed higher densities under reduced forms of tillage compared to conventional tillage on omnivorous nematodes (+53%), epedaphic (+81%) and hemiedaphic (+84%) springtails, oribatid (+43%) and mesostigmatid (+57%) mites. Furthermore, the effects of reduced forms of tillage on soil micro- and mesofauna varied with depth, climate and soil texture, as well as with tillage method, tillage frequency, concurrent fertilisation, and herbicide application. Our findings suggest that reducing tillage intensity can have positive effects on the density of micro- and mesofaunal communities in areas subjected to long-term intensive cultivation practices. Our results will be useful to support decision making on the management of soil faunal communities and will facilitate modelling efforts of soil biology in global agroecosystems.



  • Global meta-analysis to estimate the effect of reducing tillage intensity on micro- and mesofauna
  • Reduced tillage or no-tillage has positive effects on springtail, mite and enchytraeid density
  • Effects vary among nematode feeding groups, springtail life forms and mite suborders
  • Effects vary with texture, climate and depth and depend on the tillage method and frequency