Biological Invasions Belowground: Earthworms as Invasive by Paul F. Hendrix

By Paul F. Hendrix

The papers during this ebook are in response to efforts by means of a global workforce of soil ecologists to evaluate the organic and ecological mechanisms of earthworm invasions. They study their geographic quantity and affects on terrestrial ecosystems, and attainable ability in which earthworm invasions could be mitigated. The ebook broadens the dialogue on invasion biology and ecology to belowground systems.

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It is unclear how applicable these results are to larger spatial and temporal scales. Nutrients mobilized during the rapid incorporation of a multi-year accumulation of surface litter during initial earthworm invasion may ultimately be immobilized or leached out of the ecosystem. Field studies have shown variable effects of earthworm invasion on soil N dynamics. Invasion of maple forests in New York by Lumbricus spp. increased leaching of NO3 in a historically plowed site, but not at another site that had never been plowed, possibly because of the greater potential for N immobilization in the more C-rich unplowed site.

J. Bohlen Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, Florida 33852, USA Keywords Aporrectodea Æ Dendrobaena Æ Exotic earthworm invasion Æ Lumbricus rubellus Æ Abstract Earthworms are keystone detritivores that can influence primary producers by changing seedbed conditions, soil characteristics, flow of water, nutrients and carbon, and plant–herbivore interactions. The invasion of European earthworms into previously earthworm-free temperate and boreal forests of North America dominated by Acer, Quercus, Betula, Pinus and Populus has provided ample opportunity to observe how earthworms engineer ecosystems.

The introduction of earthworms increases bulk density by decreasing the thickness of the forest floor, reducing the abundance of native soil dwelling invertebrate species, and cementing soil particles together during burrowing and casting activities (McLean and Parkinson 1998a, b; Scheu and Parkinson 1994a; Alban and Berry 1994; Migge 2001). Although a soil fauna community typical for deciduous mull humus forests in Europe can lead to relatively low bulk densities in the presence of earthworms (Bal 1982; Schaefer 1991), it is unknown whether such adjustments in the soil fauna will lead to recovery of low bulk densities in recently invaded North American forests.

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