Short rotation forestry – Earthworm interactions: A field based mesocosm experiment

Rajapaksha, Nalika, Butt, Kevin Richard orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0886-7795, Vanguelova, E. I. and Moffat, A. J. (2013) Short rotation forestry – Earthworm interactions: A field based mesocosm experiment. Applied Soil Ecology, 76 . pp. 52-59. ISSN 0929-1393

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Short rotation forestry (SRF) which consists of planting rapidly growing native and non-native tree species has been introduced to the UK to increase woody biomass production. A largely unknown aspect of SRF species is their interaction with soil fauna, of which the earthworm community is a major component. Earthworms have a pronounced impact on litter decomposition, nutrient cycling and tree growth. Conversely, tree litter and root chemistry can impact on the associated earthworm community development. The aim of this study was to determine direct interactions between SRF species and earthworms. A field-based mesocosm experiment was conducted using Betula pendula (birch) and Eucalyptus nitens(eucalyptus) with two earthworm species Lumbricus terrestris and Allolobophora chlorotica. The one year experiment revealed that native birch and non-native eucalyptus had a similar influence on L. terrestris population development. However, birch had a positive impact on A. chlorotica population establishment compared with eucalyptus. In the presence of earthworms, total tree biomass and leaf nitrogen concentration of eucalyptus were increased respectively by 25% and 27% compared with an earthworm-free control. In the presence of earthworms, surface litter incorporation was greater for both tree species (almost 5 times for birch and 3 times for eucalyptus) compared with controls. This work showed direct SRF-earthworm interactions which differed for tree species.

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