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Importance of earthworm-seed interactions for the structure and composition of plant communities: a review

Abstract : Soil seed bank composition and dynamics are crucial elements for the understanding of plant population and community ecology. Earthworms are increasingly recognized as important dispersers and predators of seeds. Through direct and indirect effects they influence either positively or negatively the establishment and survival of seeds and seedlings. Seedling establishment is affected by a variety of earthworm-mediated mechanisms, such as selective seed ingestion and digestion, acceleration or deceleration of germination, and seed transport. Earthworm casts deposited on the soil surface and the entrance of earthworm burrows often contain viable seeds and constitute important regeneration niches for plant seedlings and therefore likely favour specific seed traits. However, the role of earthworms as seed dispersers, mediators of seed bank dynamics and seed predators has not been considered in concert. The overall effect of earthworms on plant communities remains little understood. Most knowledge is based on laboratory studies on temperate species and future work has to explore the biological significance of earthwormeseed interactions under more natural conditions. In this review we summarize the current knowledge on earthwormeseed interactions and discuss factors determining these interactions. We highlight that this interaction may be an underappreciated, yet major driving force for the dynamics of soil seed banks and plant communities which most likely have experienced co-evolutionary processes. Despite the experimental bias, we hypothesize that the knowledge gathered in the present review is of crucial relevance for restoration and conservation ecology. For instance, as earthworms emerge as successful and ubiquitous invaders in various ecosystems, the summarized information might serve as a basis for realistic estimations and modelling of consequences on native plant communities. We depict promising directions of future research and point to the need to consider above- and belowground interactions in order to mechanistically understand the driving forces of plant community assembly.
Keywords : earthworm seed
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Submitted on : Saturday, November 26, 2011 - 1:32:12 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 12:31:16 PM
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Estelle Forey, Sébastien Barot, Thibaud Decaens, Estelle Langlois, Kam-Rigne Laossi, et al.. Importance of earthworm-seed interactions for the structure and composition of plant communities: a review. Acta Oecologica, Elsevier, 2011, 37 (6), pp.594-603. ⟨10.1016/j.actao.2011.03.001⟩. ⟨bioemco-00645128⟩



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