Trophic level and basal resource use of soil animals are hardly affected by local plant associations in abandoned arable land
Plants provide resources and shape the habitat of soil organisms thereby affecting the composition and functioning of soil communities. Effects of plants on soil communities are largely taxon‐dependent, but how different functional groups of herbaceous plants affect trophic niches of individual animal species in soil needs further investigation. Here, we studied the use of basal resources and trophic levels of dominating soil meso‐ and macrofauna using stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen in arable fallow systems 3 and 14–16 years after abandonment. Animals were sampled from the rhizosphere of three plant species of different functional groups: a legume (Medicaco sativa ), a nonlegume herb (Taraxacum officinale ), and a grass (Bromus sterilis ). We found virtually no consistent effects of plant identity on stable isotope composition of soil animals and on thirteen isotopic metrics that reflect general food‐web structure. However, in old fallows, the carbon isotope composition of some predatory macrofauna taxa had shifted closer to that of co‐occurring plants, which was particularly evident for Lasius , an aphid‐associated ant genus. Trophic levels and trophic‐chain lengths in food webs were similar across plant species and fallow ages. Overall, the results suggest that variations in local plant diversity of grassland communities may little affect the basal resources and the trophic level of prey consumed by individual species of meso‐ and macrofauna belowground. By contrast, successional changes in grassland communities are associated with shifts in the trophic niches of certain species, reflecting establishment of trophic interactions with time, which shapes the functioning and stability of soil food webs.