The Effect of Soil pH on the Living Conditions
In Lumbricus terrestris
The difference in soil pH weighs a heavy measure on the appearance of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris in different areas of soil. A highly acidic or highly alkaline soil may be the underlying reason for the absence of this earthworm in certain areas where pH plays a large role. In this experiment, soil pH was altered with Miracida soil acidifier and Agricultural Limestonea soil correctional for acidic soil. This was done to test the effects pH would have on the living conditions of Lumbricus terrestris over a twenty-one day period. The experiment shows the fluctuation of numbers on a daily and weekly basis verifying the theory that the earthworm prefers a soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. In summary, this paper provides a three week synopsis of a closed experiment showing the preference of soil pH for the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris. KEY WORDS: Lumbricus terrestris, earthworm, soil, pH, acid, alkaline, limestone, Miracid, Agricultural Limestone, living condition
Many earthworm species in North America existing today actually originated from Europe (Minard). One of these earthworms is known as Lumbricus terrestris, or the Night crawler. According to the University of California, the Night Crawler is of Palaearctic Origin and can grow to sizes from 90mm x 6mm to 300mm x 10mm. Lumbricus terrestris has a dark anterior with a lighter posterior. Contrary to most belief, the earthworm is not a symmetrical tube-like organism. This is because it has no proper top or bottom and in Lumbricus terrestris, the posterior end has the ability to flatten. The life span of this particular earthworm can be anywhere from 2.5 to 6 years, maturing around day 350 (University of California).
Lumbricus terrestris is common in cultivated soils where is builds vertical living tubes as deep as two meters into the subsoil (Graff). Lumbricus terrestris are detrivorous which means they eat leaf litter by taking it underground to the top layer of soil and by consuming soil. The earthworms take in food at the surface or in the op soil layer and deposit excrements along the lining of the tubes.
Earthworms are considered to exert significant direct and indirect positive effects on soil quality and fertility, and consequently, they are important organisms in ecotoxicity tests and in contaminated land assessments (Georgiev, 2004). Several factors, such as soil characteristics (pH, organic matter content, etc.), chemical properties of the contaminants and environmental conditions (precipitation, temperature) affect the exposure and potential hazard to biota (Barendregt, 2004). The soil characteristic concentrated on in this experiment was soil pHthe measure of acidity and alkalinity.
The pH of soil can range from very acidic, 1-6 on the pH scale, to very alkaline, 8-14 on the pH scale, with 7 being neutral. Worms prefer soil at a pH between 6.0 and 7.0; higher than 7.0 and lower than 6.0 can be potentially harmful to the earthworms (wormman). There are many ways to alter the soil pH. According to the Garden Helper, to make a soil more basic, the most commonly used product is powdered limestone. Also, it states that some natural products that can be used to make soil more acidic are sulfur, sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold, and peat moss. There are also other ways to change the pH of soil such as using man-made chemicals.
Earthworms take up organic compounds through their skin as well as from their food (Fleuren, 2003). In this study, the soil pH was altered and tested to find the preferred living conditions for Lumbricus terrestris over a three week time period.
Methods and Materials
To begin the experiment, 50 Lumbricus terrestris worms were obtained from a bait and tackle shop and then separated into groups of ten in separate containers with some soil in each. Next, potting soil was placed in a...
Cited: Barendregt, A., Cornelis A. M. Van Gestal, Joop L. M. Hermens, Leon Van Der Wal, Roel H. L. J. Fleuren, Theo L. Sinnige, and Tjalling Jager. 2004. Solid-Phase Microextraction to Predict Bioavailability and Accumulation of Organic Micropollutants in Terrestrial Organisms after Exposure to a Field-Contaminated Soil. Environmental Science and Technology 38: 4842-4848.
Fleuren, R. H. J., Elbert A. Hogendoorn, Gert De Korte, and Tjalling Jager. 2003. Elucidating the Routes of Exposure for Organic Chemicals in the Earthworm, Eisenia Andrei (Oligcharta). Environmental Science and Technology 37: 3399- 3404.
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University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/worms/profile6.htm.
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