The effects of Eisenia fetida and Metaphire guillelmi on the soil micro-food web in a microcosm experiment

PLoS One. 2023 Aug 18;18(8):e0290282. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0290282. eCollection 2023.


Numerous studies have shown that the function of earthworms may depend on their ecotype and density, which affects how they impact soil microbial and nematode communities. However, it is unclear how different earthworm species and densities alter the composition of soil microbial and nematode communities and how these modifications impact the soil micro-food web. The structural equation model (SEM) is a more accurate tool for identifying the intricate relationships between various trophic levels in the soil micro-food webs than the widely used bivariate data analysis. In order to ascertain the effects of earthworm species, including epigeic earthworm Eisenia fetida and anecic earthworm Metaphire guillelmi, as well as varying densities on the composition of main microbial groups, soil nematodes and their relationships, a microcosm experiment was conducted in a greenhouse. After nine weeks of observation, compared with the control treatments, Eisenia fetida increased the biomasses of total microorganism and bacteria, whereas Metaphire guillelmi decreased the biomasses of total microorganism, bacteria, and gram-positive bacteria, but showed an increase in AMF biomass. Additionally, both two earthworm species decreased the abundance of total soil nematode, bacterivores, and omnivore-predators, which is in contrast with the control treatments. The SEM results indicated that the addition of Eisenia fetida at different densities had indirect negative effects on the abundance of omnivore-predators, as it significantly increased the content of soil organic carbon, ammonium nitrogen, and nitrate nitrogen. The bottom-up effects were found to be the dominant forces, which promoted bacterial-dominated decomposition channels. The addition of Metaphire guillelmi with different density had direct negative impact on bacterivores and fungivores. Moreover, it had indirect negative effects on omnivore-predators by altering the soil properties. The dominant forces were still the bottom-up effects. Our study suggests that different earthworm species have distinct mechanisms that affect the soil micro-food web in different ways.

PMID:37595000 | PMC:PMC10437835 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0290282


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