Role of soil water content in the carbon and nitrogen dynamics of Lumbricus terrestris L. burrow soil

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We evaluated the role of soil water content in controlling C and N dynamics within the drilosphere created by the anecic earthworm Lumbricus terrestris (L.). Mesocosms (volume = 3.1 l) were each amended with corn litter and three earthworms. Control treatments received no earthworms and no other earthworm species were present in the soil. WET and DRY treatments received a total of 9.25 cm and 3.25 cm of water, respectively. Water was added on weeks 1, 3, 7, and 10 at a rate of 2.0 cm per mesocosm for WET treatments and 0.5 cm per mesocosm for DRY treatments. Mesocosms were sampled destructively after incubation at 18-20°C for 0, 3, 7, and 13 weeks. The water content of WET burrow soil ranged from 0.12 g g -1 to 0.18 g g -1 and was significantly higher than in the DRY treatment throughout the incubation period. The live weight of earthworms was significantly higher in the WET treatment only on week 13, whereas litter consumption was significantly lower in the DRY treatment for week 13. Carbon mineralization, measured as CO 2 evolved after a 24-h incubation, was consistently higher in WET than in DRY burrow soil. Effects of differences in soil water content were also apparent for biomass C and metabolic quotient. Soil water content did no affect the total C concentration of burrow soil. DRY burrow soil had consistently lower levels of nitrate than WET soil throughout the experiment. Lower levels of ammonium and inorganic N were observed for WET burrow soil on weeks 3 and 7. Water content did not have a significant effect on burrow soil total N. We concluded that the water content of the drilosphere affects both C and N dynamics and can affect the speciation of inorganic N; yet, the effects of soil water content do not appear to result from differences in the feeding activities of anecic earthworms. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Applied Soil Ecology