Short-term responses of two contrasting species of earthworms in an agricultural soil amended with coal fly-ash

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Journal Article
Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 2007, 39 (5), pp. 987 - 992
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With the renewewd interest in the use of coal fly-ash for amendment of agricultural soils in Australia, we assessed how earthworms, as indicators of soil health, responded to this ameliorant. We assessed survival, weight, burrowing and elemntal concentrations for earthworms of a native unnamed Megascolecid species and exotic Aporrectodea trapezoides inintect soil cores treated with an alkaline fly-ash at rates aquivalent to 0, 5 and 25t/ha over 6 weeks. Fly ash did not affect survival, growth number of burrows created or phosphorous solubilisation. Transfer of the earthworms to the new environment having vastly different pH from where they were collected, and possibly overcrowding, caused mortality in the soil cores for all treatments. A.trapezoides that had smaller individuals suffered mortality by 0.24 (25% of their original weight) while those of A. trapezoides lot 0.18g each (21% of their original weight).The difference in growth between the two earhtworms was associated with grazing habit andprobably with the large differences in the pH which was more abundant in the fly-ash than the soil, compared with A. trapezoides that had elevated concentration of this metal.Extractable P in the soil was increased with noth species of earhtworms, more so with the exotic species that solubilised 11% more P than the native Megascolecids. The benign influence of fly-ash on survival and growth of worms was associated with the pH of soil remaining unchanged during the six weeks of incubation.
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