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Leaf litter selection by detritivore and geophagous earthworms

Summary

Litterbag experiments with 10 different kinds of leaf litter showed that detritivore (Lumbricus species) and geophagous (Aporrectodea species) earthworms prefer certain litter types over others, since different numbers of worms were found below the litter after 50–52 days of exposure in a pasture. The detritivores preferred Fraxinus, Tilia, and predecomposed Ulmus and Fagus litter to Fagus litter and paper, while geophages preferred Tilia litter to Alnus and Ulmus litter, so that the two groups of earthworms showed different preferences. The detritivores seemed to be more selective than the geophages. The palatability of the litter was examined in relation to the C: N ratio, the lignin concentration and the initial and final polyphenol concentration. The numbers of detritivores were significantly correlated with the C: N ratio and the final polyphenol concentration, so that selection of litter seems to be related to palatability. The numbers of geophages were not significantly correlated with any of the parameters for palatability. The disappearance of litter after 50–52 days appeared to be due to detritivore activity, since the numbers found below the litter were positively and significantly correlated with the litter disappearance. There was no significant correlation with geophage activity. This indicates that detritivores use litter as food, and therefore influence the composition of the litter layer.

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Hendriksen, N.B. Leaf litter selection by detritivore and geophagous earthworms. Biol Fertil Soils 10, 17–21 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00336119

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Key words

  • Selection
  • Earthworms
  • Palatability
  • Leaf litter
  • Disappearance
  • Fagus sylvatica
  • Alnus glutinosa
  • Fraxinus excelsior
  • Quercus robur
  • Tilia vulgaris
  • Ulmus glabra
  • Corylus avellana