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Earthworm burrows as microhabitats for other soil fauna were studied in a horn-beam-oak mixed forest in Hungary. Comparative chemical analysis and feeding experiments were carried out to find out whether the leaves in the burrows of large-bodied earthworms are more decomposed than those from the surrounding areas. The total organic matter content, the C/N ratio, the stability coefficient and the percentage of tannins and lipids indicate that the chemical breakdown of the litter material is more advanced in the burrows than on the other parts of the forest floor especially in autumn. No consistent differences were observed in the amounts of other organic components. Feeding experiments showed that three species of the fauna preferred the leaves pulled into the burrows to those from the surrounding areas and the preference was greater in autumn than in spring. It is suggested that the high density of some soil animals in the burrows in autumn is due to the more palatable food there; in summer the microclimate of the burrows is favoured, whereas spring can be considered as a transition period.
Holarctic Ecology © 1985 Nordic Society Oikos