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The efficiency of soil hand-sorting in assessing the abundance and biomass of earthworm communities. Its usefulness in population dynamics and cohort analysis studies

AuthorsJiménez, Juan J. ; Lavelle, Patrick; Decaëns, Thibaud
Soil fauna
Population dynamics
Issue DateNov-2006
CitationEuropean Journal of Soil Biology 42 (supl. 1): S225-S230 (2006)
Abstract[EN] Pit digging and manually revising soil blocks is a frequently used method used for field studies of earthworm communities. The aim of this study was to compare the efficiency of hand-sorting (HS) to extract small earthworms, ca. 0.2 g, and the usefulness in studies of population dynamics and cohort analysis. Many earthworms are not recovered when revising manually the soil. Factors include soil characteristics, i.e. moisture, texture, etc. and also a human factor, which is more relevant if the study is conducted in the long-term. We used data collected in a field study of earthworm communities during 2 years in the savannas of Colombia. Small soil blocks (20 × 20 × 20 cm) were dug out in order to collect the smallest earthworms by washing-sieving (WS) and compare the results with the standard HS of large monoliths (100 × 100 × 50 cm). In fact, this methodology has rarely been addressed in earthworm population field studies. Our results showed that HS efficiency varied owing to the species and ranged from 31.4% up to 100% in the savanna and from 44% to 80% in the pasture, for two small species, i.e Aymara n. sp. (epigeic) and Ocnerodrilidae sp. (endogeic). In the case of the Glossodrilus n. sp. (endogeic) these values were similar, i.e. 51.7% and 58.1%, in the savanna and pasture, respectively. We also used frequency tables to calculate the average efficiency of HS 1 m2 soil cores for each weight class in each species in order to obtain a population density correction factor. This allowed us to make corrections in earthworm density in the histograms for population dynamics analysis. We conclude that this method should be the modus operandi in long-term earthworm demography studies.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejsobi.2006.07.031
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