Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Non-native earthworms may be wiping out rare plants

22.11.2002


Most of us don’t pay much attention to earthworms but maybe we should. New research suggests that non-native earthworms are radically changing the forest floor in the northern U.S., threatening the goblin fern and other rare plants in the process.


This is "the first research to show that exotic earthworms are harmful to rare native vegetation in northern forests," says Michael Gundale of Michigan Technological University in Houghton, who presents this work in the December issue of Conservation Biology.

About 10,000 years ago, glaciers pushed the range of North American earthworms southward and today the only earthworms found in most of Minnesota are non-native species introduced from Europe. Some of these earthworms eat the top part of the soil (a layer of decomposing litter called the forest floor) and this could endanger the goblin fern, a rare species that grows mostly underground.

Found only in the upper Great Lakes region, goblin ferns live between the forest floor and the underlying mineral soil. Because these tiny ferns only send up leaves briefly during the summer (and often don’t emerge at all), they are thought to get some of their energy from fungi in the forest floor instead of by photosynthesizing.



To see if non-native earthworms are wiping out goblin ferns by eating the forest floor, Gundale studied 28 sites where populations of the fern had previously been found in northern Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest. He surveyed each site for both goblin ferns and earthworms, and took soil cores to measure the depth of the forest floor.

Gundale found that the fern had disappeared at a third of the sites studied (nine out of 28) and that these local fern extinctions were linked to two factors: the presence of a non-native earthworm and a thinner forest floor. The forest floor at "earthworm" sites was only half as thick as that at worm-free sites (about 1.5 vs. 3 inches, respectively).

To confirm that this non-native earthworm can make the forest floor thinner, Gundale added large quantities of the worm to soil cores in the laboratory. He found that after 60 days, the forest floor was only half as thick as it had been.

Gundale speculates that non-native earthworms may reach northern forests as eggs, which are resilient and so could be spread via tires. In support of this, he observed that earthworm invasions were more severe closer to roads.

Based partly on Gundale’s work, the U.S. Forest Service is trying to protect the goblin fern by restricting logging and road-building where it grows.


FOR MORE INFORMATION:

John Casson, Chippewa National Forest (jcasson@fs.fed.us)

Institute of Ecosystem Studies: Invasion of North Temperate Forest Soils by Exotic Earthworms: http://www.ecostudies.org/research/reports/grofrep2.html
For PDFs of papers, contact Robin Meadows: robin@nasw.org; http://nasw.org/users/rmeadows

For any photos provided by researchers:

To register for media access to the TOC and our expert directory: http://www.conbio.org/scb/information/media/

For more information about the Society for Conservation Biology: http://conservationbiology.org/

FAQ: SCB is developing a conservation biology FAQ; please help us make it useful to you by sending suggestions for questions to Robin Meadows: robin@nasw.org




Michael Gundale | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.conbio.org/scb/information/media/
http://conservationbiology.org/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>