The effect of earthworms and liming on soil microbial communities

M. Pawlett*, D. W. Hopkins, B. F. Moffett, J. A. Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of liming and earthworms on the composition and function of soil microbial communities was investigated in an upland soil from the UK in order to understand interactions between the biotic and abiotic components of soil systems. A factorial experiment was established using soils from the Sourhope Farm, near Kelso, with lime or no lime added, with or without earthworms added and a combined treatment of both lime and earthworm additions. The soils were incubated and destructively sampled after 180 days. Measurements of soil microbial biomass, dehydrogenase activity, phenotypic structure (by phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) and responses to four carbon substrates (d-glucose, l-arginine, α-ketoglutaric acid, α-cyclodextrin) were determined. Statistically significant results were limited to the litter layers, with no significant observations in either the H or Ah horizons. There were significant decreases in the soil microbial biomass and microbial activity in the litter layers caused by the addition of earthworms; liming reduced microbial biomass only. The addition of earthworms caused a significant difference in the PLFA principle component analysis (PCA) profile, as did liming. For the PLFA PCA profile, earthworm plus lime treatment was indistinguishable from the liming result. Addition of earthworms significantly suppressed the response to glucose; this effect was removed by liming. This indicates that liming may significantly alter the ecological interactions between earthworms and the microbial community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-369
Number of pages9
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number4
Early online date24 Oct 2008
Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The Natural Environment Research Council NERC funded this research, through the Soil Biodiversity Initiative, Project 2129. We thank Dr. H. Bishop for her assistance with earthworm identification.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Community dynamics
  • Earthworms
  • Liming
  • Microbial
  • Sourhope


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