Article CC BY 4.0
refereed
published

Assessment of earthworm services on litter mineralisation and nutrient release in annual and perennial energy crops (Zea mays vs. Silphium perfoliatum)

GND
1221096443
Affiliation
Thünen Institute of Biodiversity, Bundesallee 65, Braunschweig, Germany
Wöhl, Lena;
GND
1160323593
ORCID
0000-0001-6189-1546
Affiliation
Department of Soil Science, Faculty of Regional and Environmental Sciences, University of Trier, Campus II, Behringstraße 21, Trier, Germany
Ruf, Thorsten;
GND
112014423X
Affiliation
Department of Soil Science, Faculty of Regional and Environmental Sciences, University of Trier, Campus II, Behringstraße 21, Trier, Germany
Emmerling, Christoph;
GND
134093038
Affiliation
Thünen Institute of Biodiversity, Bundesallee 65, Braunschweig, Germany
Thiele, Jan;
GND
1018926852
ORCID
0000-0003-1647-9901
Affiliation
Thünen Institute of Biodiversity, Bundesallee 65, Braunschweig, Germany
Schrader, Stefan

Abundant and functionally diverse earthworm communities in perennials deliver ecosystem services like increasing nutrient availability by incorporating organic matter. This study aimed to analyse the decomposition of annual and perennial energy crop residues, and the subsequent nutrient release, depending on earthworm functional diversity. In a laboratory experiment, two ecological earthworm groups—anecics (detritivorous Lumbricus terrestris (L.)) and endogeics (geophagous Aporrectodea caliginosa and A. rosea)—were incubated with wilted cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and maize (Zea mays) litter for 4 or 8 weeks. Decomposition and consumption rates were calculated. The C, N and P in litter and casts were analysed. Mineralisation was a function of earthworm biomass and the number of individuals. Functional diversity had no beneficial effect. Decomposition was found to be highest in treatments with detritivorous earthworms, i.e., higher earthworm biomass, yet consumption and nutrient turnover in relation to earthworm biomass were higher in treatments with geophages indicating enhanced competition. N limitation became apparent in both litter treatments and was predominant with cup plant litter. N limitation and recalcitrant cell wall compounds affected consumption rates and the egestion of total C and P. While N in casts was lower than expected, P was increased. We observed that the effects manifested at different stages of decomposition of maize and cup plant, highlighting differences in temporal development of decomposition and nutrient turnover between litter types. Our results indicate that earthworms promote decomposition of recalcitrant litter and nutrient turnover, but N limitation may hamper nutrient release. Cup plant systems offer a suitable habitat for soil-dwelling organisms, but management approaches must consider the adequate input of organic matter as an energy and nutrient source to enhance ecosystem service provision.

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