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 Minimized water consumption in CSP plants - EU project MinWaterCSP is making good progress
05.12.2017 | Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum

nachricht Jena Experiment: Loss of species destroys ecosystems
28.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

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: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>