Invasion of Pontoscolex corethrurus (Glossoscolecidae, Oligochaeta) in landscapes of the Amazonian deforestation arc uri icon


  • Pontoscolex corethrurus (Glossoscolecidae, Oligochaeta) is an invasive endogeic earthworm that has colonized most land transformed by human activities in the humid tropics. When installed, populations can change soil physical properties, biogeochemical processes and microbial communities. The aim of this study was to determine whether P. corethrurus establishment is a result of (1) a competitive exclusion of native earthworm species or (2) the exploitation of a new niche created by anthropogenic disturbance that native earthworm species cannot use. We tested these hypotheses by doing a survey of earthworm communities in 270 sites that represented the diversity of land use systems encountered in two contrasted regions of the Amazonian arc of deforestation located in Brazil and Colombia respectively. When present in forests, P. corethrurus had no negative effect on the native species communities that had similar (epigeic species) or even higher densities (endogeic species) in the presence of the invasive species. These results suggest the absence of competitive exclusion.
  • The first two axes of a PCA multivariate analysis of communities represented the densities of native species (axis 1) and P. corethrurus (axis 2) respectively. This suggests that respective densities of the two groups respond to different conditions and that their variations are independent. The density of P. corethrurus co-varied with soil N content and pH in Colombian sites while the densities of other species did not. Our results thus suggest that this invasive species, unlike native species, is able to feed and develop in environments where litter resources are decreased while soils have been enriched in C and nutrients by deforestation and burning. We discuss the reasons why some primary forests in Central America have large populations of P. corethrurus. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2010
  • 2010