Publication Details

Introduced earthworm species exhibited unique patterns of seasonal activity and vertical distribution, and Lumbricus terrestris burrows remained usable for at least 7 years in hardwood and pine stands

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Year Published

2017

Publication

Biology and Fertility of Soils. 53(2): 187-198.

Abstract

It is difficult to obtain non-destructive information on the seasonal dynamics of earthworms in northern forest soils. To overcome this, we used a Rhizotron facility to compile 7 years of data on the activity of anecic (Lumbricus terrestris) and endogeic (Aporrectodea caliginosa complex) earthworms in two contrasting soil/plant community types. We hypothesized that L. terrestris burrows would be used for longer than a typical L. terrestris lifetime, and that the distribution and activity pattern of the two earthworm species would respond differently to changes in soil moisture and temperature. For 7 years we recorded earthworm distribution and activity state bi-weekly to a depth of 1.5 m, tracked L. terrestris burrows using images captured annually, and measured soil temperature and moisture. Activity and vertical distribution of earthworms was closely linked to earthworm species and soil temperature in the fall, winter and spring. Lumbricus terrestris typically remained active through the winter, whereas the A. caliginosa complex was more likely to enter an aestivation period. Activity of all earthworms decreased substantially in July and August when soil temperature was at its highest and soil moisture at its lowest for the year. Most L. terrestris burrows were used continuously and moved very little during the 7-year study, likely creating spatiotemporally stable hotspots of soil resources. The different patterns of response of these species to soil temperature and moisture suggests that endogeic earthworms are more likely than anecic earthworms to adjust activity states in response to climate change mediated shifts in soil moisture and temperature.

Citation

Potvin, Lynette R.; Lilleskov, Erik A. 2017. Introduced earthworm species exhibited unique patterns of seasonal activity and vertical distribution, and Lumbricus terrestris burrows remained usable for at least 7 years in hardwood and pine stands. Biology and Fertility of Soils. 53(2): 187-198. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00374-016-1173-x.

Last updated on: February 21, 2017