Species-specific earthworm population responses in relation to flooding dynamics in a Dutch floodplain soil

M.I. Zorn, C.A.M. van Gestel, H.J.P. Eijsackers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Earthworms dominate the animal biomass in moist floodplain soils. They are known to survive long periods in aerated water, but little is known about earthworm population dynamics in floodplain systems with changing inundation frequencies. This study determined earthworm population dynamics in a floodplain system, in relation to frequency and duration of flooding events. From October 2000 to May 2003 earthworms were hand sorted in the `Afferdensche en Deestsche Waarden¿, a floodplain on the south bank of the river Rhine, near Druten, The Netherlands. Earthworm numbers and biomasses per age class (adult, subadult, juvenile) were recorded. Numbers and biomasses tend to decrease during flooding. Lumbricus terrestris was found in high numbers (>10/m2) only at the end of a flooding period. Allolobophora chlorotica was hardly affected by flooding; their biomass remained stable during the year. Aporrectodea caliginosa showed fluctuating numbers and biomasses during the sampling period that did not correlate with flooding frequency. Numbers and biomasses of Lumbricus rubellus were strongly reduced at the end of each flooding event, but their population densities fully recovered until next flooding event. Earthworm populations in floodplains fluctuate in time, depending on the season and on the time, duration and frequency of flooding. Different earthworm species react differently towards these flooding dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-198
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • lumbricus-rubellus
  • habitats
  • netherlands
  • oligochaeta
  • environment
  • macrofauna

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