Long-term effects of earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus Hoffmeister, 1843) on activity and composition of soil microbial community under laboratory conditions

Petr Heděnec, Tomáš Cajthaml, Václav Pižl, Károly Márialigeti, Erika Tóth, Andrea K. Borsodi, Alica Chroňáková, Václav Krištůfek, Jan Frouz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Observations of earthworm colonization on sites where they were absent previously, such as on post-mining heaps, indicate that they may substantially alter soil conditions as well as soil microbial communities. However, long-term effects of earthworms on microbial activity of soil ecosystems remains poorly understood. To improve this situation, we set up microcosm experiments with clay only, with clay and litter, and with clay, litter and earthworms. Microcosms were sampled after 3, 60, 180 and 395 days of cultivation and divided into three subsamples: clay, litter, and drilosphere (earthworm tunnels and associates casts), when present. Microbial respiration, microbial biomass carbon, species composition, metabolic activity using BIOLOG, PLFA concentration, isoprenoid quinones content and DGGE fingerprints were analysed in all microcosms and at all subsamples. Microbial biomass carbon and basal soil respiration were significantly affected by type of microcosms and time of sampling. Microbial biomass in drilosphere was significantly higher than in clay and litter. The CFU (colony forming units) were significantly affected by presence of earthworms having significantly higher CFU in drilosphere than in all other subsamples. Analysis of PLFA indicated highest relative biomass of fungi and bacteria in clay from microcosms with earthworms. The DGGE analysis showed various compositions of microbial communities among subsamples from various treatments taken at different time. Finally, our results revealed significant effect of earthworms on activity and biomass of soil microbial community under long-term laboratory incubation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103463
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • Drilosphere
  • Earthworms
  • Microbial activity
  • Microbial biomass
  • Microbial diversity
  • Microcosms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Soil Science

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