Soil is an essential component of terrestrial ecosystems and fulfils many important functions being the natural basis of life, habitat, an integral part of water and nutrient cycling, and having a filter function for the protection of groundwater. Earthworms contribute very effectively to the breakdown of organic matter in soil and – through their faeces – to the formation of clay-humus-complexes supporting the regeneration of soil aggregates. Their burrowing activity leads to loosening and bioturbation of the soil, which has a positive effect on plant growth. It also creates macro-pores that strongly influence the gas and water balance in soil. Due to these activities and their large biomass, earthworms substantially contribute to soil fertility, an essential ecosystem service.
In 1998, the German Federal Soil Protection Act was adopted, which aims at protecting soil functions. Up to now, the Soil Protection Act has rarely been applied with respect to soil organisms, a fact that was, at least partly, due to the lack of knowledge regarding habitat requirements and endangerment of soil organisms. Although the knowledge about the ecological relationships between the soil organism groups and the interactions between the biotic and abiotic environment has considerably increased in recent decades, our knowledge about potential hazards to important soil animal groups is still scarce.
The first complete list of species and Red List of earthworms in Germany, which is at the same time the first German species list that almost exclusively deals with soil-dwelling invertebrates, has now been published. This list contributes to the knowledge of one of the most important soil organism groups and at the same time gives an impulse for further ecological investigations.
Lehmitz, R., Römbke, J., Graefe, U., Beylich A., Krück, S. (2016). Rote Liste und Gesamtartenliste der Regenwürmer (Lumbricidae et Criodrilidae) Deutschlands. In: Gruttke, H., Binot-Hafke, M., Balzer, S., Haupt, H., Hofbauer, N., Ludwig, G., Matzke-Hajek, G., Ries, M. (eds.), Rote Liste gefährdeter Tiere, Pflanzen und Pilze Deutschlands, Band 4 (Wirbellose Tiere), Teil 2. Landwirtschaftsverlag, Münster. Naturschutz und Biologische Vielfalt 70 (4), 565-590.
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