Scharenbroch, Bryant C.
Johnston, Doug

A microcosm study of the common night crawler earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) and physical, chemical and biological properties of a designed urban soil

Date created
Designed soils are used in specialized urban areas, such as under sidewalks or on roof-tops. These substrates have coarse light-weight aggregates to meet load-bearing specifications with soil in voids for rooting medium. A full-factorial microcosm approach was used to study Lumbricus terrrestris (two adult worms added and no-worms added), compaction (bulk density of 1.95 and 1.48 g cm−3), and litter (litter and no-litter additions) in a designed soil. Earthworm biomass, soil physical, chemical, and biological properties, anion leaching and surface C efflux was measured on days 0, 7, 14, 21, 28, 72, 112, and 140. Earthworms decreased bulk density in compacted soil, but did not impact density of un-compacted soil. Earthworm biomass increased days 7 to 14, but declined from days 28 to 140, likely as result of the abrasiveness of the aggregate component and relatively shallow depth of the soil (25 cm). During the period of increasing earthworm biomass, surface C efflux, microbial biomass N, soil Ca2+ and NH 4+ increased with earthworms. During the period of declining earthworm biomass, surface C efflux, microbial biomass N, soil Ca2+ and NO 3−, and leachate NO 3− increased, and soil pH decreased with earthworms. While alive and dying, Lumbricus terrestris stimulated microbial activity and biomass and nutrient availability, but an apparent shift to nitrification was observed as earthworm biomass declined. The results show Lumbricus terrestris to improve designed soil properties for plants, but the improvements may be short-lived due to the inability of these earthworms to survive in the designed soil.
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Volume, Issue, Page Number
14, 1, 119-134