, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 13-27
Date: 12 Jan 2004

Influence of Earthworm Invasion on Redistribution and Retention of Soil Carbon and Nitrogen in Northern Temperate Forests

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We analyzed soil organic matter distribution and soil solution chemistry in plots with and without earthworms at two sugar maple (Acer saccharum)–dominated forests in New York State, USA, with differing land-use histories to assess the influence of earthworm invasion on the retention or loss of soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in northern temperate forests. Our objectives were to assess the influence of exotic earthworm invasion on (a) the amount and depth distribution of soil C and N, (b) soil δ13C and δ15N, and (c) soil solution chemistry and leaching of C and N in forests with different land-use histories. At a relatively undisturbed forest site (Arnot Forest), earthworms eliminated the thick forest floor, decreased soil C storage in the upper 12 cm by 28%, and reduced soil C:N ratios from 19.2 to 15.3. At a previously cultivated forest site with little forest floor (Tompkins Farm), earthworms did not influence the storage of soil C or N or soil C:N ratios. Earthworms altered the stable isotopic signature of soil at Arnot Forest but not at Tompkins Farm; the alteration of stable isotopes indicated that earthworms significantly increased the loss of forest floor C but not N from the soil profile at Arnot Forest. Nitrate (NO3 ) concentrations in tension and zero-tension lysimeters were much greater at Tompkins Farm than Arnot Forest, and earthworms increased NO3 leaching at Tompkins Farm. The results suggest that the effect of earthworm invasion on the distribution, retention, and solution chemistry of soil C and N in northern temperate forests may depend on the initial quantity and quality of soil organic matter at invaded sites.