Why are there so many exotic Springtails in Australia? A review.


  • Penelope Greenslade Environmental Management, School of School of Health and Life Sciences, Federation University, Ballarat, Victoria 3353, Australia; Department of Biology, Australian National University, GPO Box, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia




invasion biology, decomposition, soil nutrients, exotic plants, competitive traits


Native invertebrate assemblages in Australia are adversely impacted by invasive exotic plants because they are replaced by exotic, invasive invertebrates. The reasons have remained obscure. The different physical, chemical and biotic characteristics of the novel habitat seem to present hostile conditions for native species. This results in empty niches. It seems the different ecologies of exotic invertebrate species may be better adapted to colonise these novel empty niches than native invertebrates. Native faunas of other southern continents that possess a highly endemic fauna, such as South America, South Africa and New Zealand, may have suffered the same impacts from exotic species but insufficient survey data and unreliable and old taxonomy makes this uncertain. Here I attempt to discover what particular characteristics of these novel habitats are hostile to native invertebrates.

I chose the Collembola as a target taxon. They are a suitable group because the Australian collembolan fauna consists of a high percentage of endemic taxa, but also exotic, non-native, species. Most exotic Collembola species in Australia appear to have originated from Europe, where they occur at low densities (Fjellberg 1997, 2007). Once in Australia many become invasive forming large populations. This occurs most frequently in exotic grasses and other weeds, but also even in native vegetation. I provide here species records from a number of sites that have been both invaded and colonised by exotic Collembola as well as those that still only carry native species, and document the differences between sites and faunas as far as is known. I suggest that a major factor is likely a change in microflora because of higher nutrient levels on invaded sites, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus from either fertilisers or rapid decomposition rates of exotic plants. The traits of exotic species, where known, tend to be r selected and so have a competitive advantage over the mainly K or A selected native species is another factor.



Adair, R. J. (2008): Biological control of Australian native plants, in Australia, with an emphasis on acacias. – Muelleria 26: 67–78.

Adin James, C. (2017): Invertebrate assemblages and seed harvesting ant dispersal of Acacia longifolia subsp. longifolia in south eastern Australia. – Unpublished Honours Thesis, Federation University, Ballarat.

Cicconardi, F., P. A. V. Borges & D. Strasberrg (2017): Mt DNA metagenomics reveals large-scale invasion of belowground arthropod communities by introduced species. – Molecular Ecology [doi: 10.1111/mec.14037].

Convey, P., P. Greenslade, R. J. Arnold & W. Block (1999): Collembola of sub-Antarctic South Georgia. – Polar Biology 22: 1–6.

Coy, R., P. Greenslade & D. Rounsevell (1993): A Survey of Invertebrates in Tasmanian Rainforest. – Tasmanian NRCP Technical Report No. 9. Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania and Department of Arts, Sport the Environment and Territories, Canberra: 104 pp.

Coyle, D. R., U. J. Nagendra & M. K. Taylor (2017): Soil fauna responses to natural disturbances, invasive species and global climate change: current state of the science and a call to action. – Soil Biology and Biochemistry 110: 116–133.

Driscoll, D. & C. Strong (2017): Coovariation of soil nutrients drives occurrence of exotic and native plant species. – Journal of Applied Ecology 55(2) [https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12984].

Fjellberg, A. (1998): The Collembola of Fennoscandia and Denmark, Part I: Poduromorpha. – Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica 35: 184 pp.

Fjellberg, A. (2007): The Collembola of Fennoscandia and Denmark, Part II: Entomobryomorpha and Symphypleona. – Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica 42: 264 pp. [https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004157705.i-265]

Foreman, D. B. & N. G. Walsh (1993): Flora of Victoria. Volume 1: Introduction. – Inkata Press.

French, K. & R. E. Major (2001): Effect of an exotic Acacia (Fabaceae) on ant assemblages in South African fynbos. – Austral Ecology 26: 303–310.

Green, K. & L. A. Mound (1984): An extension to the insect fauna of Heard Island. – Polar Record 30: 131–132.

Greenslade, P. J. M. (1983): Adversity Selection and the Habitat Templet. – American Naturalist 122(3): 352–365.

Greenslade, P. (1994): A comparative study of the use of indicator groups to assess the conservation value of native grassland sites in Victoria, ACT and NSW. – Collembola Unpublished report to ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

Greenslade, P. (1995): A review of the biology, taxonomy and pest status of Entomobrya unostrigata (Collembola: Entomobryidae) – an introduced species of agricultural land in Australia. – Polskie Pismo Entomologiczne 64: 245–259.

Greenslade, P. (1997): Are Collembola useful as indicators of the conservation value of native grasslands? – Pedobiologia 41: 215–220.

Greenslade, P. (2002): Assessing the risk of exotic Collembola invading subantarctic islands: prioritising quarantine management. – Pedobiologia 46: 338–344.

Greenslade, P. (2006): Invertebrates of Macquarie Island. Australian Antarctic Division: 326 pp.

Greenslade, P. (2007): The potential for Collembola as indicators of landscape stress in Australia. – Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47: 424–434.

Greenslade, P. (2018): Collembola. Australian Faunal Directory. – Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. – Viewed July 2018 [http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/taxa/PULMONATA].

Greenslade, P. & P. Convey (2012): Exotic Collembola on subantarctic islands: pathways, origins and biology. – Biological Invasions 14: 405–417 [DOI 10.1007/s10530-011-0086-8].

Greenslade, P. & P. J. M. Greenslade (1987): Ecological strategies in Collembola: a new approach to the use of terrestrial invertebrates in environmental assessment. – In: Striganova, B. R. (ed.): Soil Fauna and Soil Fertility. – Proceedings of the. 9th International Colloquium on Soil Zoology, Moscow, 1985: 245–252.

Greenslade, P. & J. E. Ireson (1986): Collembola of the southern Australian culture steppe and urban environments: a review of their pest status and key to identification. – Journal of the Australian entomological Society 25: 273–292.

Greenslade, P. & R. Slatyer (2017): Montane Collembola at risk from climate change in Australia. – European Journal of Soil Biology 80: 85–91.

Greenslade, P., L. Bell & S. Florentine (2011): Auditing revegetated catchments by measuring decomposition rates in soil and development of collembolan species assemblages in southern Australia. – Soil Organisms 83: 433–450.

Penelope Greenslade, A. Burbidge & A. J. Lynch (2013): Keeping Australia’s islands free of introduced rodents. – Pacific Conservation Biology 19:284–294.

Greenslade, P., J. E. Ireson & D. Skarzynski (2014): Hypogastrura and Ceratophysella species in Australia. – Austral Entomology 53: 53–74 [DOI: 10.1111/ aen.12048].

Greenslade, P., J. A. Simpson & C. A. Grurginovich (2002): Collembola associated with fungal fruit–bodies in Australia. Pedobiologia 46: 345–352.

Greenslade, P, I. Reid & I. Packer (2010): Short-term effects of herbicides on some invertebrate fauna of wheat fields. – Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42(7): 1172–1175 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2010.03.009].

Greenslade, P., B. A. Melbourne, M. I. Stevens & K. F. Davies (2008): The status of two exotic terrestrial Crustacea on subantarctic Macquarie Island. – Polar Record 44(228): 15–23.

Greenslade, P., M. Potapov, D. Russell & P. Convey (2012): Global Collembola on Deception Island. – Journal of Insect Science 12: 1–16.

Gurevitch, J. & D. K. Padilla (2004): Are invasive species a major cause of extinctions? – Trends in Ecology and Evolution 19(9): 470-4.

Hellmann, C., R. Sutter, K. Rascher, D. Maguas, O. Correia & C. Werner (2011): Impact of an exotic n2-fixing Acacia on composition and N status of a native Mediterranean community. – Acta Oecologica 37: l43–50.

Howard, G. & P. Greenslade (1985): Soil and litter arthropods from pine plantations in South Australia. In Greenslade, Penelope and Majer, J.D. Editors of Soil and litter invertebrates of some Australian Mediterranean– type ecosystems. – Western Australian Institute of Technology, School of Biology Bulletin 12: 37–38.

Janion-Scheepers, C., L. Phillips, C. M. Sgrò, G. A. Duffy, R. Hallas & S. L. Chown (2017): Basal resistance enhances warming tolerance of alien over indigenous species across latitude. – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115(1): 145–150.

King, K. L., P. Greenslade & K. J. Hutchinson (1985): Collembolan associations in natural versus improved pastures of the New England Tableland, N.S.W.: distribution of native and introduced species. – Australian Journal of Ecology 10: 421–427.

Le Maitre, D. C., M. Gaertner & E. Marchante (2011): Impacts of invasive Australian acacias: implications for management and restoration. – Diversity and Distribution 17: 1015-1029 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00816.x].

Lindsay, E. A. & K. French (2006): The impact of the weed Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata on coastal leaf litter invertebrates. – Biological Invasions 8: 177–192.

Longstaff, B. C., P. J. Greenslade & M. Colloff (1997): The Impact of Soil tillage Practice on Soil Fauna in the NSW Wheat Belt. – RIRDC Research Paper No. 99/18: 65pp.

Lytton–Hitchins, J, A., P. Greenslade & L. Wilson (2015): Relative and seasonal abundance of Collembola (Insecta, Apterygota) in irrigated cotton fields of New South Wales, Australia. – Environmental Entomology 44(3): 529–545 [DOI: 10.1093/ee/nvv029].

McDonald, D. & D. Rodgers (2010): Soils Alive: Understanding and Managing Soil Biology on Tasmanian farms. – Unpublished Report to Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment: 74 pp.

McGeoch, M. A., M. J. Lythe & M. V. Henriksen (2015): Environmental impact classification for alien insects: a review of mechanisms and their biodiversity outcomes. – Current Opinion in Insect Science 12: 46–53.

McDougall, K. L. & N. G. Walsh (2007): Treeless vegetation of the Australian Alps. – Cunninghamia 9: 1–57.

Marchante, H. (2011): Invasion of Portuguese dunes by Acacia longifolia: present status and perspective for the future. – Unpublished Thesis, University of Coimbra.

Marchante, H., E. Marchante, H. Freitas & J. H. Hoffmann (2015): Temporal changes in the impacts on plant communities of an invasive alien tree, Acacia longifolia. – Plant Ecology 216(11): 1481–1498 [doi: 10.1007/s11258-015-0530-4].

Nguyen, K., Q., P. Coneo & S. A. Cunningham (2016): Ecological effects of increasing time since invasion by the exotic African olive (Olea europaea ssp. cuspidate) on leaf-litter invertebrate assemblages. – Biological Invasions 18: 1689–1699.

Oliver, I., D. Garden & P. J. Greenslade (2005): Effect of fertiliser and grazing on the arthropod communities of a native grassland in southeast Australia. – Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 109 (3–4): 323–334.

Qazi, F. & M. Shayan (2016): A checklist of Collembola of Tehran, with some new records from Iran Department of Plant Protection, Journal of Entomological Society of Iran. – Journal of Entomological Society of Iran 36(2): 121–136.

Parnikoza, I., A. Rozhok & P. Convey (2018): Spread of Antarctic vegetation by the kelp gull: comparison of two maritime Antarctic regions. – Polar Biology 41(6): 1143–1155.

Porco D., A. Bedos & P. Greenslade (2012): Species delimitation in Collembola: cryptic diversity cases among common springtails unveiled by DNA barcoding. – Invertebrate Systematics 26: 470–477.

Porco, D., M. Potapov & A. Bedos (2012): Cryptic Diversity in the Ubiquist Species Parisotoma notabilis (Collembola, Isotomidae): A Long-Used Chimeric Species? – PLoS One 7(9) [https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046056].

Prins, H. H. T. & I. J. Gordon (eds) (2014): Invasion Biology and Ecological Theory Insights from a Continent in Transformation. – Biological Invasions 16(12): 2757–2759.

Richardson, D. M. & R. L. Kluge (2008): Seed banks of invasive Australian Acacia species in South Africa. – Perspectives in Plant Ecology Evolution and Systematics 10(3): 161–177 [DOI: 10.1016/j.ppees.2008.03.001].

Richardson, D. M., N. Allsopp & C. M. d’Antonio et al. (2000): Plant invasions—the role of mutualisms. – Biological Reviews, Cambridge Philosophical Society 75(1): 65–93.

Rural News (2017): [https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-02-20/biosecurity-outbreaks-in-australia-a-short-history/8280634].

Rusterholz, H.-P., J.-A. Salamon & R. Ruckl (2014): Effects of the annual invasive plant Impatiens glandulifer on the Collembola and Acari communities in a deciduous forest. – Pedobiologia 57: 285–291.

Salmon, S. & J.-F. Ponge (2012): Species traits and habitats in springtail communities: a regional scale study. – Pedobiologia 55(6): 295–301.

Sterzynska, M., J. Shrubovych & P. Nicia. (2017): Impact of plant invasion (Solidago gigantean L.) on soil mesofauna in a riparian wet meadow. – Journal of Soil Ecology 64: 1–7.

Tabassum, S. & M. R. Leishman (2016): Trait values and not invasive status determine competitive outcomes between native and invasive species under varying soil nutrient availability. – Austral Ecology 41(8): 875–885.

Thomas, D. T. (2005): Selective grazing by sheep to improve the control of weeds. – Ph D. Thesis University of Western Australia: 208 pp.

Walsh, J. R., R. S. Carpenter & M. J. Van der Zanden (2016): Invasive species triggers a massive loss of ecosystem services through a trophic cascade. – PNAS 113(15): 4081–4085 [https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1600366113].

Watson, A. P., J. N. Matthiessen & B. P. Springett (1982): Arthropod associates and macronutrient status of the red-ink sundew (Drosera erythrorhiza Lindl.). – Australian Journal of Ecology 7: 13–22.

Williams, L. K., J. D. Shaw & B. M. Sindel (2018): Longevity, growth and community ecology of invasive Poa annua across environmental gradients in the subantarctic. – Basic and Applied Ecology 29: 20–31.

Wise, K. A. J. (1970): Collembola of South Georgia. – Pacific Insects Monograph 23: 183–203.




How to Cite

Greenslade, P. . (2018). Why are there so many exotic Springtails in Australia? A review. SOIL ORGANISMS, 90(3), 141–156. https://doi.org/10.25674/y9tz-1d49