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Earthworm behavior in artificial soil columns under poor soil air conditions

Hochschule Osnabrück (Germany), Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Landscape Architecture

Our aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of different earthworm species as soil engineers under poorly aerated soil conditions. Therefore a laboratory experiment was conducted using artificial soil columns in which compacted soil blocks prepared with glucose were used. The addition of glucose stimulates the microbial respiration which leads to oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide enrichment, respectively. To measure the soil oxygen content, we used the one-channel version of the oxygen meter FireStingO2 (FSO2-1) and several bare fiber oxygen sensors (OXB50) positioned in each artificial soil column. The oxygen sensors were consecutively read out by the 1-channel oxygen meter, simply by switching the connectors. However, the calibration data for each oxygen sensor could be easily retrieved during this procedure using the "load setup" and "save setup" functionality in the FireSting logger software.

The research was conducted as a part of the ongoing project entitled RÜWOLA – an acronym for a German research project in the field of forestry and soil protection.

Fig. 1: Top view of the experimental soil columns and the oxygen meter FireStingO2 (FSO2-1) connected to a PC. Each soil column is equipped with a bare fiber oxygen sensor (OXB50, orange fibers). For automatic temperature compensation of the oxygen measurement the upper left soil column is equipped with a temperature dipping probe (TDIP15, gray cable).

Fig. 2: Degradation of soil oxygen concentration over time after adding a soil block with glucose.