Response of enchytraeid worm populations to different forms of nitrogen (ammonia, ammonium, and nitrate) deposition

Miranda Prendergast-Miller, Valerie Standen, Ian D. Leith, Lucy J. Sheppard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The changes to ecosystems and ecosystem functioning induced by anthropogenic reactive nitrogen deposition continue to be studied in a range of habitats. In semi-natural habitats, these effects can be pronounced, often with negative impacts on the native flora. An experimental site established on an
ombrotrophic bog provides a unique opportunity for the study of the effect of long-term simulated N deposition. The response of enchytraeid worms to different forms of nitrogen deposition (as ammonia, ammonium or nitrate) was assessed at this site, which has been receiving N treatments since 2002: previous studies on the site have shown that high N deposition (64 kg N ha-1 yr-1) has changed the aboveground vegetation. In this study, the below-ground response of enchytraeids to N treatment was shown to be dependent on site wetness. Under favourable site conditions, i.e. when the peat moisture content
was high, enchytraeid abundance was negatively affected by N deposition in the form of ammonia or nitrate, whereas addition of ammonium, ammonium plus PK (=K2HPO4), and to a lesser extent, nitrate plus PK, appeared to increase enchytraeid abundance. However, when the bog was drier, enchytraeid numbers were similar across all treatments and appeared to be insensitive to N.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-236
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Organisms
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


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