Land use intensity impact on functional diversity in earthworms regarding regulation of soil structure and water infiltration

J.H. Faber, G. Pérès, Arjen de Groot, P.H. Krogh

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Earthworms can be distinguished into three groups that represent different clusters of morphological and behavioural traits. These so-called ecological groups (sensu Bouché 1977) have traditionally been considered to represent different functional groups with respect to soil processes. In this context, one aim of our study was to assess the impact of agronomic intensification across a range of land-use systems on the relationships between earthworm
community composition and soil processes. Secondly, we quantified the relationships between earthworm ecological groups and individual species with soil aggregate formation,macroporosity and water infiltration capacity. In a comparison between permanent grassland, permanent arable land with conventional ploughing, and a 3:3 years rotation system the stability of soil aggregates in the top layer was higher under grass cover, and the stability of 2-
4mm soil aggregates significantly increased with increasing biomass of both anecic and endogeic earthworms. Earthworm burrow distribution over the soil profile was strongly impacted by land management (e.g. total number was higher under grassland vs crop), and specific relationships were identified between some earthworm species and larger macropores.
Water infiltration rates significantly increased with increasing earthworm biomass, and this effect was significant for the group of anecic species. The role of endogeic species appears to be inconsistent between sites or management practices. We discuss the functional ecology of earthworms at the level of functional group and the individual species, focussing on burrow
morphology and vulnerability towards agricultural management practices. Results contribute to the understanding of the linkage between soil biodiversity and provision of ecosystem services.
Our quantitative results can be used in ecohydrological modelling (forecasting) and economic valuation studies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2015
EventWageningen Soil Conference, Wageningen, the Netherlands -
Duration: 23 Aug 201527 Aug 2015


ConferenceWageningen Soil Conference, Wageningen, the Netherlands


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