Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invasion of a deciduous forest by earthworms: changes in soil chemistry, microflora, microarthropods and vegetation.

Abstract

Ecosystems of northern North America existed without earthworm fauna until European settlers arrived and introduced European species. The current extent of invasion by some of these species, Lumbricus terrestris L., Octolasion tyrtaeum Savigny and Dendrobaena octaedra Savigny, into an aspen forest in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the effects of the invasion on soil chemistry, microflora, soil microarthropods and vegetation were investigated. Densities of earthworm species, soil structure, plant coverage and abundance were determined along three transects starting at the edge of the forest. At locations with L. terrestris, litter was incorporated into the soil, and where O. tyrtaeum was present, organic layers were mixed with mineral soil layers. Organic layers disappeared almost entirely when both species occurred together. Carbon and nitrogen concentrations were reduced in organic layers in the presence of L. terrestris and O. tyrtaeum. Microbial biomass and basal respiration were reduced when L. terrestris and O. tyrtaeum were present, presumably due to resource competition and habitat destruction. Microarthropod densities and the number of microarthropod species were strongly reduced in the presence of O. tyrtaeum (-75% and -22%, respectively), probably through mechanical disturbances, increasing compactness of the soil and resource competition. The coverage of some plant species was correlated with earthworm abundance, but the coverage of others was not. Despite harsh climatic conditions, the invasion of boreal forest ecosystems by mineral soil dwelling earthworm species is proceeding and strongly impacts soil structure, soil chemistry, microorganisms, soil microarthropods and vegetation.