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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Estimating energy costs of earthworm burrowing using calorimetry

Arrazola-Vasquez, Elsa M.; Larsbo, Mats; Capowiez, Yvan; Taylor, Astrid; Herrmann, Anke M.; Keller, Thomas


Earthworm burrowing is essential for soil functioning in temperate climates. It is known that soil compaction hampers earthworm burrowing, but there is a lack of knowledge on how it affects the energy costs of earthworms. In the present study, we used respirometry and isothermal calorimetry to quantify earthworm respiration rates and heat dissipation in two endogeic species, Aporrectodea caliginosa and Aporrectodea tuberculata , in compacted and non -compacted soils. We put the measured respiration rates and heat dissipation in relation to the burrow volume and cast volume produced by the earthworms. We found that at higher compaction levels, respiration rates and dissipated heat increased for both studied species. The energy costs associated with burrowing were a significant fraction of the total energy costs. Our results indicate that energy costs per burrow volume increase due to compaction, and that the specific energy costs for burrowing (i.e., per gram earthworm) were lower for A. tuberculata than for A. caliginosa . Further studies are needed to confirm our results. We discuss the potential and current limitations of isothermal calorimetry as a method for direct quantification of energy costs of earthworms. There is a need for further studies that quantify how energy costs of burrowing are affected by various soil conditions, to better predict the implications of land use and soil management on soil processes and functions mediated by earthworm burrowing.


A. caliginosa; A. tuberculata; Soil compaction; Heat dissipation; Respiration rates; Bioturbation

Published in

European Journal of Soil Biology
2024, Volume: 121