Smith, R. G., C. P. McSwiney, A. S. Grandy, P. Suwanwaree, R. M. Snider, and G. P. Robertson. 2008. Diversity and abundance of earthworms across an agricultural land-use intensity gradient. Soil & Tillage Research 100:83-88.
Understanding how communities of important soil invertebrates vary with land use may lead to the development of more sustainable land-use strategies. We assessed the abundance and species composition of earthworm communities across six replicated long-term experimental ecosystems that span a gradient in agricultural land-use intensity. The experimental systems include a conventional row-crop agricultural system, two lower-intensity row-crop systems (no-till and tilled organic input), an early successional old-field system, a 40–60 years old coniferous forest plantation, and an old-growth deciduous forest system. Earthworm populations varied among systems; they were lowest in the most intensively managed row-crop system (107 m−2) and coniferous forest (160 m−2); intermediate in the old-field (273 m−2), no-till (328 m−2) and tilled organic (344 m−2) cropping systems; and highest in the old-growth deciduous forest system (701 m−2). Juvenile Aporrectodea species were the most common earthworms encountered in intensively managed systems; other species made up a larger proportion of the community in less intensively managed systems. Earthworm community biomass and species richness also varied and were lowest in the conventional row-crop system and greatest in the old-growth forest system. These results suggest that both land-use intensity and land-use type are strong drivers of the abundance and composition of earthworm communities in agricultural ecosystems.
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