Chamberlain, Emma J. and Butt, Kevin R.
Distribution of earthworms and influence of soil properties across a successional sand dune ecosystem in NW England.
European Journal of Soil Biology, 44
An investigation of earthworms across a sand dune system in NW England examined species distribution and abundance with respect to soil physico-chemical conditions and management. Replicated 0.1 m2 quadrats were examined every 50 m along 700 m transects across areas of vegetation succession and samples were then taken every 10 m where earthworms were first encountered. A translocation of Aporrectodea longa assessed the ability of this species to live in soils with a high sand content and laboratory work examined growth, maturation and survival of this species in soils with increasing proportions of sand (0–100%). Nine earthworm species were found on the dunes, but none in yellow dunes where organic matter (OM) content was <1%. Dendrobaena octaedra and Lumbricus rubellus were located 300 m from the strand line in grey dunes with an OM content of 3.9%. Allolobophora chlorotica and Lumbricus castaneus occurred within a wet dune slack at 340 m (OM content 11%). In areas of human disturbance (dune car park), A. longa, Aporrectodea caliginosa and Lumbricus terrestris were present, and in soil below pine trees L. castaneus and L. rubellus were present in litter. Laboratory growth of A. longa demonstrated significant (p < 0.05) increases in growth (2–2.75 g) with 25 and 50% sand compared with 0, 75 and 100% over 24 weeks and a greater rate of maturation. Initial results show earthworm colonisation to be influenced by dune successional stage. Laboratory findings suggested A. longa could exist in higher sand content areas but experimental design needs development. The translocation was unsuccessful. Future investigations could examine soil properties more closely and undertake monitoring on site throughout the year.