Climate change effects on earthworms - a review

  • Jaswinder Singh Department of Zoology, Khalsa College Amritsar, G.T Road, 143002 Punjab, India; Department Community Ecology, Helmholtz - Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06110 Halle, Germany; German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
  • Martin Schädler Department Community Ecology, Helmholtz - Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06110 Halle, Germany; German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
  • Wilian Demetrio Departamento de Solos e Engenharia Agrícola, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Rua dos Funcionários 1540, 80035-050 Curitiba, Brazil
  • George G. Brown Departamento de Solos e Engenharia Agrícola, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Rua dos Funcionários 1540, 80035-050 Curitiba, Brazil; Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), Embrapa Forestry, Estrada da Ribeira Km. 111, 83411-000 Colombo, Brazil
  • Nico Eisenhauer Department Community Ecology, Helmholtz - Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06110 Halle, Germany; Leipzig University, Institute of Biology, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
Keywords: Biodiversity, Climate change, Climate drivers, Cocoons, Earthworm invasions, Soil organisms


Climate change can have a plethora of effects on organisms above and below the ground in terrestrial ecosystems. Given the tremendous biodiversity in the soil and the many ecosystem functions governed by soil organisms, the drivers of soil biodiversity have received increasing attention. Various climatic factors like temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, as well as extreme climate events like drought and flood have been shown to alter the composition and functioning of communities in the soil. Earthworms are important ecosystem engineers in the soils of temperate and tropical climates and play crucial roles for many ecosystem services, including decomposition, nutrient cycling, and crop yield. Here, we review the published literature on climate change effects on earthworm communities and activity. In general, we find highly species- and ecological group-specific responses to climate change, which are likely to result in altered earthworm community composition in future ecosystems. Earthworm activity, abundance, and biomass tend to increase with increasing temperature at sufficiently high soil water content, while climate extremes like drought and flooding have deleterious effects. Changing climate conditions may facilitate the invasion of earthworms at higher latitudes and altitudes, while dryer and warmer conditions may limit earthworm performance in other regions of the world. The present summary of available information provides a first baseline for predictions of future earthworm distribution. It also reveals the shortage of studies on interacting effects of multiple global change effects on earthworms, such as potential context-dependent effects of climate change at different soil pollution levels and across ecosystem types.


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How to Cite
Singh, J., Schädler, M., Demetrio, W., Brown, G. G., & Eisenhauer, N. (2019). Climate change effects on earthworms - a review. SOIL ORGANISMS, 91(3), 114–138.