• macropores;
  • spatial parameterization;
  • earthworm ecological types;
  • infiltration patterns;
  • preferential flow


Due to its high spatial and temporal variability, preferential flow is difficult to measure and quantify. Earthworms create macropores that provide common pathways for preferential flow. Therefore in this article, we link earthworm abundance to macropore numbers and hydrological effectiveness, with the future aim to use species distribution models of earthworms for the spatial parameterization of preferential flow.

Earthworms are generally categorized into three ecological types with varying burrowing behaviour, resulting in a different impact on soil hydrological processes. Therefore, we studied the relationships between the abundance of the earthworm ecological types and macropores of different size classes and in different soil depths. The abundance and biomass of earthworms were well correlated to different sizes of macropores in different soil depths. This is mainly the case for the larger, vertically oriented macropores (>6 mm diameter), which are generally connected to the soil surface and hydrologically most effective. The correlation of total earthworm biomass and macropores ranges from 0·72 to 0·89 for different soil depths.

Although there is quite some variation in infiltration patterns, infiltration from macropores into the matrix is profile-specific, as it varies strongly between profiles, but not within one profile. Macropore coating seems to have a larger effect on this macropore matrix interaction than the soil physical properties of the matrix. Although the amount of macropores and their effectiveness are clearly related to the earthworm distribution, the variation in infiltration from macropores to soil matrix should be further studied. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.