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Distinct microbial and faunal communities and translocated carbon in Lumbricus terrestris drilospheres

By Mary E. Stromberger, Aidan M. Keith and Olaf Schmidt


Lumbricus terrestris is a deep-burrowing anecic earthworm that builds permanent, vertical burrows with linings (e.g. drilosphere) that are stable and long-lived microhabitats for bacteria, fungi, micro- and mesofauna. We conducted the first non-culture based field study to assess simultaneously the drilosphere (here sampled as 0–2 mm burrow lining) composition of microbial and micro/mesofaunal communities relative to bulk soil. Our study also included a treatment of surface-applied 13C- and 15N-labeled plant residue to trace the short-term (40 d) translocation of residue C and N into the drilosphere, and potentially the assimilation of residue C into drilosphere microbial phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs). Total C concentration was 23%, microbial PLFA biomass was 58%, and PLFAs associated with protozoa, nematodes, Collembola and other fauna were 200-to-300% greater in the drilosphere than in nearby bulk soil. Principal components analysis of community PLFAs revealed that distributions of Gram-negative bacteria and actinomycetes and other Gram-positive bacteria were highly variable among drilosphere samples, and that drilosphere communities were distinct from bulk soil communities due to the atypical distribution of PLFA biomarkers for micro- and mesofauna. The degree of microbial PLFA 13C enrichment in drilosphere soils receiving 13C-labeled residue was highly variable, and only one PLFA, 18:19c, was significantly enriched. In contrast, 11 PLFAs from diverse microbial groups where enriched in response to residue amendment in bulk soil 0-5 cm deep. Among control soils, however, a significant 13C shift between drilosphere and bulk soil at the same depth (5-15 cm) revealed the importance of L. terrestis for translocating perennial rye grass-derived C into the soil at depth, where we estimated the contribution of the recent grass C (8 years) to be at least 26% of the drilosphere soil C. We conclude that L. terrestris facilitates the translocation of plant C into soil at depth and promotes the maintenance of distinct ssoil microbial and faunal communities that are unlike those found in the bulk soil

Topics: Biology and Microbiology, Ecology and Environment
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2011.11.024
OAI identifier:

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