Soil Ecology

Invasive Earthworm Impacts on Forest Soils and Seedlings

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Asian jumping worms—a complex of three common species, Amynthas agrestis, A. tokioensis, and Metaphire hilgendorfi—are invading new habitats in the previously glaciated and earthworm-free soils of the northern United States. However, Amynthas appear to have ecosystem-specific effects. As Amynthas can live at much higher densities than European earthworms, such as Lumbricus terrestris and L. rubellus, and have particularly dramatic impacts on forest soils, it is critical to evaluate the ecological consequences of Amynthas invasion across forests varying in tree species composition.

Using a combination of mesocosm, greenhouse experiments, and field surveys, this project aims to answer the following questions:

  • What are the effects of Amynthas spp. on tree seedling growth and health, leaf litter decomposition rates, and soil properties?
  • Do tree species mediate the effects of Amynthas spp.?
  • Do the effects of Amynthas spp. vary with density?
  • How quickly do Amynthas spp. invade new areas?
  • How do Amynthas spp. effects compare to invasive European worms?

This research will give us insight into the effects of these worms on plants and soils as they invade new ecosystems. 


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