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

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Summary

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.

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Correspondence to W. E. Hamilton.

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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). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00257760

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Key words

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