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Earthworm species occurrence in agroecosystems in the Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Thembeka C. Nxele, , Inam Yekwayo
Published: 12 August 2021

Abstract: Little is known about the species composition of earthworms in agroecosystems in South Africa even though earthworms provide soil ecosystem services and are useful biological indicators of changes in the habitats. Given the land use and management impact biodiversity, the aim of this study was to document earthworm species that occur under cultivated land in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. A survey of nine farms that practise conservation agriculture was carried out between 2018 and 2020. Twelve earthworm species belonging to four introduced families: Acanthodrilidae (Dichogaster bolaui), Rhinodrilidae (Pontoscolex corenthrurus), Lumbricidae (Aporrectodea caliginosa, Aporrectodea rosea, Aporrectodea trapezoides, Lumbricus rubellus, Octolasion cyaneum, Octolasion lacteum), Megascolecidae (Amynthas aeruginosus, Amynthas corticis, Amynthas gracilis, Amynthas rodericensis) and juveniles from an indigenous family Tritogeniidae were recorded from cultivated fields. The type of crop (habitat) affected both species richness and abundance of earthworms significantly. However, post hoc results showed differences in species richness between the soya and the maize only, with greater species richness in the maize. Our results demonstrate that habitat type has a major influence on communities of earthworms in agroecosystems.
Keywords: species composition / land use / Africa / Amynthas / earthworms / Octolasion / South / maize / Aporrectodea / richness

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