Ivask, M., Kuu, A, Truu, M., Kutti, S., Meriste, M. and Peda, J. 2012. Earthworm Communities in Soils of Estonian Wooded Meadows. Baltic Forestry 18(1): 111-118.

Wooded meadows are traditional semi-natural meadows in the region around the Baltic Sea. They are mowed regularly once per year, and some meadows are lightly grazed by sheep or cattle in late summer after mowing. Data on soil fauna in wooded meadows are still scarce in spite of their importance to ecosystem functioning. The aim of this study was to describe the taxonomic and ecological structure of earthworm communities in relation to the chemical and microbiological characteristics of the soil and meadow restoration conditions in Estonian wooded meadows. The chemical and microbiological parameters of the soil were studied so as to characterize the habitat of the earthworms. Earthworms were collected using a mustard solution as vermifuge. In total, the earthworm communities of wooded meadows consisted of eight species. The most abundant species were the endogeic Aporrectodea caliginosa and Aporrectodea rosea. The dominant epigeic species was Lumbricus rubellus in meadows with higher soil moisture and Dendrobaena octaedra in a dry meadow. In wooded meadows, richness of plant species and diversity in earthworm communities have developed in calcareous soil conditions. Different layers of plant cover create several different microhabitats for soil invertebrates including earthworms, thus promoting diversity. The taxonomic composition of communities depends on soil conditions; mostly on soil moisture. The restored wooded meadows differ significantly from the long-term managed meadows by the ecological structure of the earthworm communities: in mowed meadows the community consists of more endogeic and fewer epigeic species compared to the restored meadows.

Key words: wooded meadows, earthworms, microbial community, diversity, restoration