Marine macroalgae as food for earthworms: Growth and selection experiments across ecotypes

Butt, Kevin Richard orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0886-7795, Meline, Camile and Peres, Guenola (2020) Marine macroalgae as food for earthworms: Growth and selection experiments across ecotypes. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 27 . pp. 33493-33499. ISSN 0944-1344

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Historically, subsistence farmers around the Atlantic coast of NW Europe utilised marine algae as a fertiliser in agroecosystems, a practice that continued in small areas and is now considered to have real potential for re-establishing sustainable food production systems on marginal soils. Earthworms form a significant component of soil fauna and their ecosystem services are well documented. Therefore, palatability of marine organic amendments to faunal detritivores of terrestrial systems is of interest. This work aimed to assess the potential for growth of Aporrectodea caliginosa, Lumbricus rubellus and Aporrectodea longa fed with two common macroalgae (seaweeds), Laminaria digitata and Fucus serratus. In addition, choice chambers were constructed to permit earthworm selection of these macroalgae with more conventional organic materials, horse manure (HM) and birch leaves (BL). Over a period of two months, earthworm species showed significantly greater mass gain with conventional food (p<0.05). Laminaria outperformed Fucus, which in turn was superior to soil alone. Similarly, when given a choice, a significant preference (p<0.001) was shown for the more nitrogen-rich HM and BL over the seaweeds. No removal was recorded for A. caliginosa when offered seaweeds only. By contrast, L. rubellus and A. longa showed significant preferences (p<0.001) for Laminaria over Fucus and fresh material over degraded. These results underline an interest to profit from natural resources (seaweeds) to maintain or improve soil biological quality in marginal coastal areas.

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