Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Lynette R. Potvin; Erik A. Lilleskov
    Date: 2017
    Source: Biology and Fertility of Soils. 53(2): 187-198.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.0 MB)


    It is difficult to obtain non-destructive information on the seasonal dynamics of earthworms in northern forest soils. To overcome this, we used a Rhizotron facility to compile 7 years of data on the activity of anecic (Lumbricus terrestris) and endogeic (Aporrectodea caliginosa complex) earthworms in two contrasting soil/plant community types. We hypothesized that L. terrestris burrows would be used for longer than a typical L. terrestris lifetime, and that the distribution and activity pattern of the two earthworm species would respond differently to changes in soil moisture and temperature. For 7 years we recorded earthworm distribution and activity state bi-weekly to a depth of 1.5 m, tracked L. terrestris burrows using images captured annually, and measured soil temperature and moisture. Activity and vertical distribution of earthworms was closely linked to earthworm species and soil temperature in the fall, winter and spring. Lumbricus terrestris typically remained active through the winter, whereas the A. caliginosa complex was more likely to enter an aestivation period. Activity of all earthworms decreased substantially in July and August when soil temperature was at its highest and soil moisture at its lowest for the year. Most L. terrestris burrows were used continuously and moved very little during the 7-year study, likely creating spatiotemporally stable hotspots of soil resources. The different patterns of response of these species to soil temperature and moisture suggests that endogeic earthworms are more likely than anecic earthworms to adjust activity states in response to climate change mediated shifts in soil moisture and temperature.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Potvin, Lynette R.; Lilleskov, Erik A. 2017. Introduced earthworm species exhibited unique patterns of seasonal activity and vertical distribution, and Lumbricus terrestris burrows remained usable for at least 7 years in hardwood and pine stands. Biology and Fertility of Soils. 53(2): 187-198.


    Google Scholar


    Lumbricus terrestris, Aporrectodea caliginosa, Rhizotron, Aestivation, Burrow longevity

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page