Correlation between earthworms and plant litter decomposition in a tropical wet forest of Puerto Rico

TitleCorrelation between earthworms and plant litter decomposition in a tropical wet forest of Puerto Rico
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsDechaine, J, Ruan, HH, Y. de Leon, S-, Zou, XM
JournalPedobiologia
Volume49
Pagination601-607
Accession NumberLUQ.132
Keywordstropical wet forest
Abstract

Earthworms are recognized to play an important role in the decomposition of organic materials. To test the use of earthworms as an indicator of plant litter decomposition, we examined the abundance and biomass of earthworms in relation to plant litter decomposition in a tropical wet forest of Puerto Rico. We collected earthworms at 0–0.1 m and 0.1–0.25 m soil depths from upland and riparian sites that represent the natural variation in soils and decomposition rates within the forest. Earthworms were hand-sorted and weighed for both fresh and dry biomass. Earthworms were dominated by the exotic endogeic species Pontoscolex corethrurus Müller; they were more abundant, and had higher biomasses in the upland than in riparian sites of the forest. Plant leaf litter decomposed faster in the upland than riparian sites. We found that earthworm abundance in the upper 0.1 m of the soil profile positively correlated with decomposition rate of plant leaf litter. Ground litter removal had no effect on the abundance or biomass of endogeic earthworms. Our data suggest that earthworms can be used to predict decomposition rates of plant litter in the tropical wet forest, and that the decomposition of aboveground plant litter has little influence on the abundance and biomass of endogeic earthworms.

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