Effect of Shelterbelts on the Abundance and Diversity of Earthworms in Pastures in the Central-West Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia

Akim Chidwala, Spendilove Frimpong, Anantanarayanan Raman


Earthworms are key indicators of soil health. Their biological actions incorporate organic matter, increase the number of water-stable soil aggregates, improve water infiltration, aeration, and root penetration, and they also enhance soil-microbial activity. Shelterbelts within agroecosystems facilitate localized wind velocity, thus influencing the microclimate within the agroecosystem by favourably modifying the air temperature, soil temperature, air humidity, soil moisture, evaporation, transpiration, and CO2 concentration. Shelterbelts have been generally shown to improve the abundance and diversity of soil microorganisms and micro- and macrofauna in the neighbourhood. The influence of shelterbelts on the abundance and diversity of soil fauna, especially those of non-earthworm soil invertebrate biota in adjacent agroecosystems, has been well investigated in Australia. However, no published reports on earthworm shelterbelt pasture correlation occur. This study therefore addressed that gap. The study was carried out in three, 12-year old shelterbelts integrated with pasture located within the Orange (NSW) campus farm of Charles Sturt University. Earthworms were sampled at increasing distances from mid-points of shelterbelts in mid-spring (October 2012, Period 1) and mid-autumn (April 2013, Period 2). Populations of the taxa Apporectodea trapezoides, A. caliginosa, and Octolasion cyanaem (Annelida: Clitellata: Lumbricidae) were measured in Periods 1 and 2. The results show that the population density and biomass decrease with increasing distance from the shelterbelt in Period 1, whereas both factors increased with increasing distance from the shelterbelt in Period 2.


Microclimate; Species Diversity; Biomass; Aporrectodea trapezoides; A. caliginosa; Octolasion cyanaem


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