Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Impact of landspread sewage sludge and earthworm introduction on established earthworms and soil structure

  • 81 Accesses

  • 2 Citations


Sewage sludge was applied to twelve 4-m2 plots in two forest (mixed hardwood, Norway spruce plantation) site and one old field site. The earthworm Eisenia fetida was introduced to half the control and half the treated plots. Earthworm populations were sampled by formalin extraction and hand-sorting five times in the year following treatment. One year after treatment, soil samples were wet-sieved and water-stable aggregate size-class arrays were determined.

The dominant earthworm in the study site, Lumbricus terrestris, increased in density and mean individual biomass in response to sludge treatment in mixed hardwood and old field plots. In the Norway spruce plots, L. terrestris increased in individual biomass but decreased in density following sludge application. The density of the introduced E. fetida rapidly declined in all control plots. One year after introduction, E. fetida was found only in the sludge-treated Norway spruce plot. The introduction of E. fetida with sludge decreased the density and biomass of L. terrestris in the hardwood plots.

Sludge treatment increased the percentages of 4-mm diameter water-stable aggregates in old field and hardwood plots. The addition of E. fetida with sludge in the hardwood plots generated no increase in 4-mm water-stable aggregates. In the old field, sludge + E. fetida increased the 4-mm water-stable aggregates. Little change in water-stable aggregates in response to either treatment combination was seen in the Norway spruce site.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Allison FE (1968) Soil aggregation - some facts and fallacies as seen by a microbiologist. Soil Sci 106:136–143

  2. Baver LD (1956) Soil physics, 3rd edn. Wiley, New York

  3. Bray RJ, Curtis JT (1957) An ordination of the upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecol Monogr 27:325–349

  4. Burns G, Davies JA (1986) The microbiology of soil structure. Biol Agric Hort 3:95–113

  5. Chaney K, Swift RS (1986) Studies on aggregate stability. I. Reformation of soil aggregates. J Soil Sci 37:329–335

  6. Curry JP (1976) Some effects of animal manures on earthworms in grassland. Pedobiologia 16:425–438

  7. Dindal DL, Newell LT, Moreau JP (1979) Municipal wastewater irrigation: Effects on community ecology of soil invertebrates. In: Sopper WE, Kerr SN (eds) Utilization of municipal sewage effluent and sludge on forest and disturbed land. The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, pp 197–205

  8. Domsch KH, Base HJ (1972) Mycological studies on earthworm casts. Soil Biol Biochem 4:31–38

  9. Edwards CA, Lofty JR (1977) Biology of earthworms, 2nd edn. Chapman and Hall, London

  10. Epstein E (1975) Effect of sewage sludge on some soil physical properties. Environ Qual 4:139–142

  11. Hamilton WE, Dindal DL, Parkinson CM, Mitchell MJ (1988) Interaction of earthworm species in sewage sludge amended soil microcosms: Lumbricus terrestris and Eisenia fetida. J Appl Ecol 25:847–852

  12. Harris RF, Allen ON, Chesters G, Attoe OJ (1963) Evaluation of microbial activity in soil aggregate stabilization and degradation by the use of artificial aggregates. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 27:542–546

  13. Harris RF, Chesters G, Allen ON, Attoe OJ (1964) Mechanisms involved in soil aggregate stabilization by fungi and bacteria. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 28:529–532

  14. Harris RF, Chesters G, Allen ON (1966) Dynamics of soil aggregation. Adv Agron 18:107–169

  15. Hole FD (1981) Effects of animals on soil. Geoderma 25:75–112

  16. Hopp H, Hopkins HT (1946) Earthworms as a factor in the formation of water stable aggregates. J Soil Water Conserv 1:85–88

  17. Kemper WD, Chepil WS (1965) Size distribution of aggregates. In: Black CA (ed) Methods of soil analysis. Am Soc Agron, Madison, Wisc, pp 499–510

  18. MacKay AD, Kladivko EJ (1985) Earthworms and the rate of breakdown of soybean and maize residues in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 17:851–857

  19. Mazurak AP, Chesnin L, AmirThijeel A (1977) Effects of beef cattle manure on water-stability of soil aggregates. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 41:613–615

  20. Mountford MD (1962) An index of similarity and its application to classificatory problems. In: Murphy PW (ed) Progress in soil zoology. Butterworths, London, pp 430–450

  21. Pagliai M, Guidi G, LaMarca M, Giachetti M, Lucamante G (1981) Effects of sewage sludges and composts on soil porosity and aggregation. Environ Qual 10:556–561

  22. Parle JN (1963) A microbiological study of earthworm casts. J Gen Microbiol 31:13–22

  23. Raw F (1959) Estimating earthworm populations by using formalin. Nature (London) 184:1661–1662

  24. Reid JB, Goss MJ (1981) Effect of living roots of different plant species on the aggregate stability of two arable soils. J Soil Sci 32:521–541

  25. Skinner FA (1979) Rothamsted studies of soil structure. VII. The effects of incubation on soil aggregate stability. J Soil Sci 30:473–481

  26. Stevenson BG, Parkinson CM, Mitchel MJ (1984) Effect of sewage sludge on decomposition processes in soil. Pedobiologia 26:95–105

  27. Sutton JC, Sheppard BR (1976) Aggregation of sand-dune soil by endomycorrhizal fungi. Can J Bot 54:326–533

  28. Tisdale JM, Oades JM (1979) Stabilization of soil aggregated by the root systems of ryegrass. Aust J Soil Res 17:429–441

  29. USDA (1972) Soil series of the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: Their taxonomic classification. Government Printing Office, Washington DC

  30. Yeates GW (1976) Earthworm population of a pasture spray-irrigated with dairy shed effluent. NZ J Agric Res 19:387–391

  31. Yoder RE (1936) A direct method of aggregate analysis of soils and a study of the physical nature of erosion loss. Am Soc Agron 28:337–351

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to W. E. Hamilton.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hamilton, W.E., Dindal, D.L. Impact of landspread sewage sludge and earthworm introduction on established earthworms and soil structure. Biol Fert Soils 8, 160–165 (1989).

Download citation

Key words

  • Sewage sludge
  • Earthworms
  • Formalin extraction
  • Eisenia fetida
  • Lumbricus terrestris
  • Spruce plantation
  • Hardwood site