Microbial and Microfaunal Community Dynamics in Artificial and Lumbricus terrestris (L.) Burrows

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Macropore formation and litter incorporation are two results of earthworm [Lumbricus terrestris (L.)] activities that can influence trophic dynamics inside burrows. Thus, mesocosms were constructed to examine changes in microbial biomass and microfaunal communities inside artificial compared with earthworm burrows. Four treatments were established: (i) no worms (CTRL); (ii) unlined, artificial burrows (ARTF); (iii) corn (Zea mays L.) leaf litter-lined, artificial burrows (LEAF); and (iv) Lumbricus terrestris (L.) burrows (WORM). There were no consistent differences in community structures between unlined, artificial burrows and control soils during a 16-wk incubation. In contrast, protozoan numbers were elevated throughout the experiment in LEAF and WORM. A succession of nematode abundances occurred in LEAF, with plant parasitic and Tylenchid nematode numbers peaking at 5 wk, followed by high bacterivorous and fungivorous nematode numbers. In WORM, bacterivorous nematode numbers and active bacterial biomass were elevated for 1 and 3 wk, respectively, before declining. Active fungal biomass increased in WORM, whereas fungivorous nematodes were inhibited in earthworm burrows. While litter incorporation appeared to accelerate the rate of trophic interactions in artificial burrows, the effects of earthworms appeared to transcend that of litter translocation into soil, with earthworms differentially selecting for particular food web dynamics.

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Soil Science Society of America Journal