New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1998) 22(1): 87- 93

Population density and distribution of the New Zealand indigenous earthworm Octochaetus multiporus (Megascolecidae : Oligochaeta) in hill pastures

Research Article
J. A. Springett  
R. A. J. Gray  
D. J. Barker  
M. G. Lambert  
A. D. Mackay  
V. J. Thomas  
  1. Grassland Research Centre, AgResearch, Tennent Dr, Private Bag 11008, Palmerston North, New Zealand

The distribution of the indigenous New Zealand megascolecid earthworm Octochaetus multiporus (Beddard) in hill pastures of different fertilities in the southern North Island of New Zealand, and the population density throughout a year are described. Octochaetus multiporus was most numerous in soils of low to moderate fertility. High fertility soils had a similar population density to that of an adjacent area of native forest, indicating that the exotic pasture environment can favour Octochaetus multiporus in some circumstances. Population density of Octochaetus multiporus was best correlated with soils which were moist in summer. There was no well defined breeding season for this species, mature and recently hatched individuals being found in most months of the year. Octochaetus multiporus is a deeper burrowing indigenous earthworm species which is successful in an exotic environment. In pastures which have moist soils in summer, this species may be improving soil structure and root penetration in the absence of deep burrowing introduced lumbricid earthworms.