|Title||Plant influences on native and exotic earthworms during secondary succession in old tropical pastures|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2004|
|Authors||Y. de Leon, S-, Zou, XM|
Land-use changes can drastically alter earthworm communities. Native species are often lost and few exotic species, such as Pontoscolex corethrurus, rapidly prevail when tropical forests are converted to pastures. However, this process can be reversed when forests recover from abandoned pastures through secondary succession. We hypothesized (1) that the formation of forest floor mass during secondary succession in pastures promotes the recovery of native, anecic earthworms and (2) that the shift from grass vegetation in pastures to woody plants in secondary forests decreases the abundance and biomass of the exotic, endogeic P. corethrurus. To test the first hypothesis, we developed a litter manipulation experiment by removing and adding plant litter in plots of mature secondary forests in the Cayey Mountains, Puerto Rico. To test the second hypothesis we performed a greenhouse experiment to examine the influence of a pasture grass species Axonopus compressus and a dominating woody species Miconia prasina of the secondary forests on the number and biomass of the earthworm P. corethrurus. We found in the litter manipulation experiment that earthworm diversity, density and fresh weight were not affected by litter input. However, in the greenhouse experiment, A. compressus increased the number and biomass of P. corethrurus, whereas M. prasina decreased the exotic, endogeic earthworm. Our results suggest that the quantity of litter does not promote rapid changes (<1 year) in native, anecic earthworm diversity, and that the exotic, endogeic P. corethrurus is favored by grass A. compressus compared to the woody plant M. prasina. The shift in vegetation from grass to woody plants promotes the decrease in the density and biomass of the exotic, endogeic P. corethrurus during secondary succession in old tropical pastures.