Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Terrestrial oligochaete research in Latin America: the importance of the Latin American Meetings on Oligochaete Ecology and Taxonomy.

Abstract

Over 1100 species of oligochaetes are known from Latin America (LA), of which most are earthworms. Enchytraeid research is not so well developed, mainly due to their small size, the difficulty of identification, and the general ignorance of LA scientists of this family. Some countries, such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have active taxonomists, and hence tend to have better knowledge of oligochaete diversity and ecology. However, the few professionals active in the area and a major taxonomic impediment have greatly hindered research on oligochaetes in LA. Four Latin American Meetings on Oligochaete Ecology and Taxonomy (ELAETAO) have been held since 2003. These meetings brought together researchers, students and technicians from 15 countries and resulted in several landmark publications (3 special journal issues and one book) that synthesize research performed in the Americas. Topics addressed include the diversity and distribution of native and exotic earthworm species in all LA countries, the use of oligochaetes as bioindicators, oligochaete genetics and phylogeny, various aspects of vermiculture, earthworm and enchytraeid sampling methods, and ecology and biology of invasive species, among others. Furthermore, since the first ELAETAO, regular training in terrestrial oligochaete ecology and taxonomy (10 earthworm and 2 enchytraeid short courses), as well as in ecotoxicology and molecular genetics has been offered to ∼150 scientists and students in these topics in order to build capacity for research activity. The ELAETAOs have greatly stimulated earthworm and enchytraeid research in LA, but several challenges must still be overcome to adequately assess the true nature of oligochaete biodiversity and their ecology in the region.