Community-specific impacts of exotic earthworm invasions on soil carbon dynamics in a sandy temperate forest

TitleCommunity-specific impacts of exotic earthworm invasions on soil carbon dynamics in a sandy temperate forest
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCrumsey JM, Le Moine JM, Capowiez Y, Goodsitt MM, Larson SC, Kling GW, Nadelhoffer KJ
Date Published6/2013
Type of ArticleDissertation
Keywordstemperate forests

Exotic earthworm introductions can alter above- and belowground properties of temperate forests, but the net impacts on forest soil carbon (C) dynamics are poorly understood. We used a mesocosm experiment to examine the impacts of earthworm species belonging to three different ecological groups (Lumbricus terrestris [anecic], Aporrectodea trapezoides [endogeic], and Eisenia fetida [epigeic]) on C distributions and storage in reconstructed soil profiles from a sandy temperate forest soil by measuring CO2 and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) losses, litter C incorporation into soil, and soil C storage with monospecific and species combinations as treatments. Soil CO2 loss was 30% greater from the Endogeic3Epigeic treatment than from controls (no earthworms) over the first 45 days; CO2 losses from monospecific treatments did not differ from controls. DOC losses were three orders of magnitude lower than CO2 losses, and were similar across earthworm community treatments. Communities with the anecic species accelerated litter C mass loss by 31–39% with differential mass loss of litter types (Acer rubrum . Populus grandidentata . Fagus grandifolia . Quercus rubra Pinus strobus) indicative of leaf litter preference. Burrow system volume, continuity, and size distribution differed across earthworm treatments but did not affect cumulative CO2 or DOC losses. However, burrow system structure controlled vertical C redistribution by mediating the contributions of leaf litter to A-horizon C and N pools, as indicated by strong correlations between (1) subsurface vertical burrows made by anecic species, and accelerated leaf litter mass losses (with the exception of P. strobus); and (2) dense burrow networks in the A-horizon and the C and N properties of these pools. Final soil C storage was slightly lower in earthworm treatments, indicating that increased leaf litter C inputs into soil were more than offset by losses as CO2 and DOC across earthworm community treatments.