Earthworm-bioturbated soil and crab-bioturbated soil: comparative physicochemical and microbial properties
Keywords:bioturbation, organic carbon, soil carbon, soil nitrogen, wetlands
Wetlands are rich in bioturbating animals, whose activities modify the physicochemical and nutrient states of their habitat soils. Although bioturbations by earthworms and crabs have been investigated separately, a comparative study of their impact on soil quality has yet to be reported. We compared the microbial and physicochemical properties of earthworm- and crab-bioturbated soils from the same wetland habitat. Soils separately bioturbated by earthworms and crabs were sampled within randomly placed 1 m2 quadrats and analysed for microbial and physicochemical properties using standard procedures, with unbioturbated (undisturbed) soil from the same area serving as the control. Bioturbated and unbioturbated soils exhibited significant differences (p < 0.05) in all measured parameters, with unbioturbated soil showing higher proportions of sand and silt, but lower biochemical and microbial activities. Crab-bioturbated soil had significantly higher (p < 0.01) moisture and water holding capacity, relative to earthworm-bioturbated soil. However, earthworm-bioturbated soil recorded significantly higher (p < 0.01) nitrogen (0.45 ± 0.02%), organic carbon (1.26 ± 0.02%), and total organic matter (2.18 ± 0.04%). Additionally, earthworm-bioturbated soil had significantly higher total bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes counts of 129.33 ± 18.15x104 CFU/g, 46.22 ± 6.04x104 CFU/g, and 56.22 ± 7.61x104 CFU/g, respectively. These results imply that both earthworms and crabs positively influence soil quality, but earthworm activities have a greater positive biochemical and microbial effects. Nevertheless, efforts should be made towards conserving the populations of wetland earthworms and crabs, as their contributions are complementary to soil enrichment.
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