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Phosphorus fractions and dynamics in surface earthworm casts under native and improved grasslands in a Colombian savanna Oxisol

AuthorsJiménez, Juan J. ; Cepeda, Alberto; Decaëns, Thibaud; Oberson, A.; Friesend, Dennis K.
Earthworm casts
Ecosystem engineers
Issue DateMay-2003
CitationSoil Biology and Biochemistry 35 (5): 715-727 (2003)
AbstractThe objective of this study was to assess the effect of a native anecic species on phosphorus availability in an Oxisol characterised by a low chemical fertility. Experiments were carried out at Carimagua research station in a representative site of the isohyperthermic savannas on the Colombian Orinoco basin. One field study and two laboratory/incubation studies were performed in a natural herbaceous savanna and a Brachiaria decumbens and Pueraria phaseoloides pasture. In the laboratory, experiment pots were prepared containing soil collected from the respective field paddock's topsoil. Total P content was higher in earthworm casts than in the surrounding soil in field samples, 50% in native savanna soil and more than 100% in pasture soil. In casts produced under laboratory conditions this increase was relatively low (10–20%). Under field conditions, almost without exception, all P fractions were increased in casts relative to the original soil (corresponding to the increase in total P content), being relatively greater in the labile inorganic P fractions. In addition, samples from the natural savanna showed that pH of casts was higher (5.2) than that of soil (4.6) in both field and laboratory samples. Except in the native savanna under field conditions, the phosphatase activity was reduced in casts by 16.7 to 44%. From our results we conclude that earthworms in the field incorporate P from litter or other organic sources (i.e. undecomposed plant and root material, earthworm faeces) which is not normally measured in the analysis of bulk soil.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0038-0717(03)00090-7
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