Soil animals and drought
Even though the pore air in the soil is largely saturated with water vapors, from time to time drought may develop in the soil. Off hand, you would think that soil animals are unable to tolerate drought at all, but in fact they have developed very efficient physiological mechanisms that enable them to sustain even severe drought in the soil. For instance, many soil animals are able to enter into a sort of hibernation in a more or less dehydrated stage when drought occurs. The ability to tolerate extreme situations such as drought is essential for the ability of the organisms to thrive, spread and colonize new areas. In addition, earth is most likely facing great climatic changes in the near future that will truly put the species’ stress tolerance to the test. Climate change will not only consist of changed average temperatures, but will probably also lead to extreme situations – such as drought – becoming more severe and frequent. For this reason, we are working to understand the physiological mechanisms that enable soil animals to tolerate adverse climatic conditions such as drought and cold. Specifically, we work with collembolans and earthworms, as these species have proved to be suitable models for physiological studies and are also easy to handle and breed in the laboratory.