EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Aligning earthworm activity and microbial necromass formation in mineral soil

Gerrit Angst1,2, Jan Frouz2,3, Jan Willem van Groenigen4, Stefan Scheu5,6, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner7,8, and Nico Eisenhauer1,9
Gerrit Angst et al.
  • 1German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103, Leipzig, Germany
  • 2Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Soil Biology & SoWa Research6 Infrastructure, Na Sádkách 7, 37005, České Budějovice, Czech Republic
  • 3Institute for Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Benátská 2, CZ 12800, Praha, Czech Republic
  • 4Soil Biology Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, PO Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 5Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, University of Göttingen, Untere Karspüle 2, 37073, Göttingen, Germany
  • 6Center of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use, University of Göttingen, Büsgenweg 1, 37077, Göttingen, Germany
  • 7Chair of Soil Science, TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan, Technical University of Munich, Freising-Weihenstephan 85354, Germany
  • 8Institute for Advanced Study, Technical University of Munich, Lichtenbergstrasse 2a, Garching 85748, Germany
  • 9Institute of Biology, Leipzig University, Puschstrasse 4, 04103, Leipzig, Germany

Microbial necromass is regarded as a central pool of soil organic carbon, whose management is critical in efforts to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations and mitigate climate change. However, recent concepts on soil organic matter formation have ignored one of the most important factors for the formation and stabilization of microbial necromass in many soils: earthworms. Based on recent evidence, we conceptualize how the ingestion and mixing of mineral particles and organic matter by earthworms temporarily convert the egested soil to a hotspot of quick and efficient microbial growth and turnover, in which increased amounts of necromass tightly bind to mineral surfaces and stabilize within aggregates. We further stress the low dependence of this process on the quality of pre-existing soil organic matter (in contrast to the assumptions of recent concepts) and its high relevance to the resilience of soil carbon to external disturbances in extensive regions of the soil remote from classical hotspots of microbial necromass formation. We finally provide suggestions on how to close remaining research gaps.

How to cite: Angst, G., Frouz, J., van Groenigen, J. W., Scheu, S., Kögel-Knabner, I., and Eisenhauer, N.: Aligning earthworm activity and microbial necromass formation in mineral soil, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-13493,, 2022.