Nuutinen, Visa, Butt, Kevin Richard and Jauhiainen, L.
Field margins and management affect settlement and spread of an introduced dew-worm (Lumbricus terrestris L.) population.
To study the feasibility of earthworm introduction for increasing the macroporosity and permeability of arable heavy clay, deep-burrowing earthworms (LumbricusterrestrisL.) were inoculated into a tile drained experimental field in Jokioinen, S-W Finland in autumn 1996. Inoculation with the Earthworm Inoculation Unit technique was at the up-slope end of the field, in the fieldmargins under permanent grass, and inside the four 0.46 ha plots of the field. The experiment was monitored on three occasions. In 1998 the L. terrestrispopulation had persisted in low numbers only in field and plot margins. By 2003, when the field had been under set-aside grass for three years, density had grown in the margins and L. terrestris were also found inside the field at a very low density. The third monitoring was in autumn 2009, after a further four years as set-aside and a subsequent division of the field into no-till and ploughing management, and looked at the effects of management (margins, no-till, ploughing), distance from the inoculation and sub-drainage on L. terrestris abundance. The abundance displayed a clear gradient over the field, declining from 14 ind. and 18 g m−2 at 5–9 m from inoculation, to 1 ind. and 2 g m−2 at 56–60 m distance. Margins had the highest abundances (16 ind. and 32 g m−2), followed by no-till (4 ind. and 4 g m−2) and ploughing (1 ind. and 1 g m−2). Abundances were significantly higher above the tiles than between them (P < 0.05). The results demonstrate the importance of no-till and sub-drain line habitats as settlement supports for the inoculated population. Fieldmargins proved to be decisive for inoculation success, by providing bridgeheads for population establishment and later by acting as source areas for the colonisation of the field. This finding highlights the general importance of fieldmargins in the dispersal ecology of earthworms in arable landscapes.