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Using the ecosystem engineer concept to test the functional effects of a decrease in earthworm abundance due to an historic metal pollution gradient

Abstract : In a companion study, carried out in a fallow meadow close to a lead recycling factory, we showed that earthworms were absent in the first 20 m and then gradually increased in abundance from 30 to 110 m from the factory. Here we assessed in the same meadow whether these differences in earthworm abundance were associated with the loss of physical soil properties. Soil cores were sampled and infiltration measured in situ at five distances from the factory (10, 30, 50, 80 and 110 m). X-ray tomography was used to characterize the earthworm burrow systems within cores. The burrow systems were minimal at the first two distances, with the only macropores observed probably produced by insects such as ants. Typical earthworm burrows were seen at 50 m but most of their characteristics (volume, diameter, continuity) were similar to those observed at 10 or 30 m. Dense and well-developed burrow systems were observed at 80 and 110 m from the factory with significantly larger volume and continuity. Burrow diameter at 80 m was significantly higher than at closer distances but it significantly decreased at 110 m associated with the higher abundance of endogeics earthworm species. Water infiltration followed the same trend with significantly lower rates at the first two distances compared to those further from the factory, where rates increased from 70 to 250%. This study emphasizes the need to develop a more functional approach to study the spatial effects of contamination on soil ecological processes and fertility, beyond modifications in earthworm communities.
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https://hal-amu.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03391776
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Submitted on : Thursday, October 21, 2021 - 5:31:41 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, June 1, 2022 - 4:20:23 AM

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yvan Capowiez, T. Lévèque, Céline Pelosi, Line Capowiez, Christophe Mazzia, et al.. Using the ecosystem engineer concept to test the functional effects of a decrease in earthworm abundance due to an historic metal pollution gradient. Applied Soil Ecology, 2021, 158, pp.103816. ⟨10.1016/j.apsoil.2020.103816⟩. ⟨hal-03391776⟩

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