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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Student Essays

Detrimental Influence of Invasive Earthworms on North American Cold-Temperate Forest Soils


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 41 No. 1, p. 27-30
    Received: Nov 4, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): ienerson@umd.edu
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  1. Isabel Enerson *
  1. c/o R.R. Weil, Dep. of Environmental Science and Technology, H.J. Patterson Hall, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; I. Enerson, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740


The topic of invasive earthworms is a timely concern that goes against many preconceived notions regarding the positive benefits of all worms. In the cold-temperate forests of North America invasive worms are threatening forest ecosystems, due to the changes they create in the soil, including decreases in C:N ratios and leaf litter, disruption of the seed bank, and changes in soil structure and nutrient cycling. These changes in turn affect the forest ecosystem by encouraging the growth of non-native plants, inhibiting undergrowth, decreasing biodiversity, and negatively affecting species that are sensitive to change. While the potential for remediation by acidifying the soil exists, the potential repercussions of such a change has not been researched. The key to minimizing the issue of invasive earthworms is prevention. Thus, policy and education targeted at individuals who are horticulturists, fishermen, bait shops owners, and vermiculturalists, who are commonly vectors of introduction, are critical to conserving cold-temperate forests in North America.

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