Infoscience

Journal article

Earthworm communities in alluvial forests: Influence of altitude, vegetation stages and soil parameters

In many terrestrial ecosystems, soil parameters usually regulate the distribution of earthworm communities.In alluvial ecosystems, few studies have investigated the impact of periodic floods and alluvium deposition on soil fauna. In this context, we assumed that earthworm communities may vary depending on altitude (alpine, subalpine, mountain and hill levels), forest successional stage (post-pioneer to mature forests) and some soil parameters. Our results demonstrated that the composition of earthworm communities differed depending on altitudinal gradients. No earthworm was found at the alpine level while maximum density and biomass were observed at the hill level mainly due to the contribution of anecic species. A total of 27 species and subspecies were found over the three sampling sites, and Lumbricus moliboeus was discovered for the first time in carbonated soils. Soil texture had a major effect on epigeics that were often associated with coarse sandy texture in contrast to anecics which preferred deep soils and mature forest stages, which in combination provided the highest carbon content and the finest soil texture. In our study, carbonated fluviosols (Fluvisols according to the World Reference Base) were recorded; fluviosols typiques with well-structured A layers were generally found in mature or intermediate forest stages while most of fluviosols juveniles with heterogeneous texture were observed principally in post-pioneer forests. We conclude that in alluvial ecosystems, earthworm communities were highly dependent first on soil parameters, then altitude and to a lesser extent forest successional stages. Changes in earthworm communities tend to reflect a gradient of alluvial dynamics thus reinforcing the potential role of earthworms as bioindicators in natural and/or semi natural alluvial ecosystems.

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