Linking spatial earthworm distribution to macropore numbers and hydrological effectiveness

Loes Van Schaik*, Juliane Palm, Julian Klaus, Erwin Zehe, Boris Schröder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Due to its high spatial and temporal variability, preferential flow is difficult to measure and quantify. Earthworms create macropores that provide common pathways for preferential flow. Therefore in this article, we link earthworm abundance to macropore numbers and hydrological effectiveness, with the future aim to use species distribution models of earthworms for the spatial parameterization of preferential flow. Earthworms are generally categorized into three ecological types with varying burrowing behaviour, resulting in a different impact on soil hydrological processes. Therefore, we studied the relationships between the abundance of the earthworm ecological types and macropores of different size classes and in different soil depths. The abundance and biomass of earthworms were well correlated to different sizes of macropores in different soil depths. This is mainly the case for the larger, vertically oriented macropores (>6mm diameter), which are generally connected to the soil surface and hydrologically most effective. The correlation of total earthworm biomass and macropores ranges from 0·72 to 0·89 for different soil depths. Although there is quite some variation in infiltration patterns, infiltration from macropores into the matrix is profile-specific, as it varies strongly between profiles, but not within one profile. Macropore coating seems to have a larger effect on this macropore matrix interaction than the soil physical properties of the matrix. Although the amount of macropores and their effectiveness are clearly related to the earthworm distribution, the variation in infiltration from macropores to soil matrix should be further studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-408
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Earthworm ecological types
  • Infiltration patterns
  • Macropores
  • Preferential flow
  • Spatial parameterization

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Linking spatial earthworm distribution to macropore numbers and hydrological effectiveness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this