Biodiv Sci ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (10): 1051-1059.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2018086

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Ecological functions of millipedes in the terrestrial ecosystem

Mengru Wang, Shenglei Fu, Haixiang Xu, Meina Wang, Leilei Shi*()   

  1. College of Environment and Planning, Henan University, Kaifeng, Henan 475004
  • Received:2018-03-26 Accepted:2018-07-17 Online:2018-10-20 Published:2019-01-06
  • Contact: Shi Leilei
  • About author:# Co-first authors


Millipedes (Diplopoda) are a highly diverse group of soil invertebrates and play vital roles in terrestrial ecosystems. Millipedes contribute to the cycling of carbon and nutrients through their feeding activities and gut processes that help decompose litter. However, the functions of millipedes have been poorly researched compared to other groups of soil animals such as earthworms. Here, we briefly summarize the ecological functions of millipedes: Millipedes can fragment, consume and transform litter to accelerate its decomposition. Millipedes prefer large amounts of semi-decomposed litter and the efficiency of millipedes in assimilating litter can vary with litter source, temperature and microbial biomass in the litter. Millipedes can regulate the cycling of soil carbon and other key nutrients through feeding and excretion activities. Nitrogen enters to the soil when litter is fragmented by millipedes, but there are different views on how millipedes affect the soil carbon cycle. Millipede faeces decompose more rapidly than the pre-ingested litter. Such a transformation of litters to faeces would accelerate carbon cycling. However, other studies have suggested a relatively low decomposition rate of millipede faeces when compared with un-ingested litter, which could contribute to soil carbon sequestration and stabilization. In addition, the survival of millipedes affects soil phosphorus cycle. They can increase the content of available phosphorus in soil. Millipedes interact with other soil animals such as earthworms and also can regulate the abundances of soil microorganisms. Our review indicates that further studies are required to better understand and document the role of millipedes in ecosystem functioning.

Key words: millipede, soil fauna, terrestrial ecosystem, ecological functions