A classification scheme for earthworm populations (Lumbricidae) in cultivated agricultural soils in Brandenburg, Germany


  • Paper presented on the annual meeting of the German Soil Science Society (DBG) in Marburg, “Boden @ Landschaft, die dünne Haut der Erde”, September 3–11, 2005


Earthworm activity is observed at long-term monitoring sites as an indicator of soil function to assess changes resulting from environmental and management conditions. In order to assess changes, characteristic values of earthworm populations under different site conditions have to be known. Therefore, a classification scheme for site-specific earthworm populations was developed for soil in agricultural use, taking interactions between earthworm populations and soil properties into account. Characteristics of sites grouped by means of a cluster analysis after principal-component analysis served as a basis for the derivation of the classification scheme. Soil variables found to characterize site differences with respect to earthworm populations were the texture of the topsoil, the texture of the subsoil, and the soil organic-matter (SOM) content. The textural classes of the topsoil were divided into five groups comprising sandy soils (Ss), silty sand soils (Su), slightly loamy sand soils (Sl2), medium to strongly loamy sand soils (Sl3/Sl4), and loam and clay soils. Soil organic matter was divided into grades of equal size in a range from <1%, 1%–2% up to >6%. The variables “earthworm abundance” and “earthworm species” were selected to represent earthworm populations and were divided into six groups ranging from very low to extremely high. Defined groups of earthworm populations showed a clear structure in relation to soil textural groups and the content of SOM. From this distribution, a classification scheme was derived as basis for prognostic values of site-specific earthworm populations, thus enabling the interpretation of changes over time. For some soil textural groups, selected variables appeared to enable the derivations of expected earthworm densities and species composition outside the range of the given database, but for some soil textural groups, broader databases will be needed to specify these derivations.