Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Oil palm and rubber expansion facilitates earthworm invasion in Indonesia.

Abstract

Deforestation, plantation expansion and other human activities in tropical ecosystems are often associated with biological invasions. These processes have been studied for above-ground organisms, but associated changes below the ground have received little attention. We surveyed rainforest and plantation systems in Jambi province, Sumatra, Indonesia, to investigate effects of land-use change on the diversity and abundance of earthworms-a major group of soil-ecosystem engineers that often is associated with human activities. Density and biomass of earthworms increased 4-30-fold in oil palm and rubber monoculture plantations compared to rainforest. Despite much higher abundance, earthworm communities in plantations were less diverse and dominated by the peregrine morphospecies Pontoscolex corethrurus, often recorded as invasive. Considering the high deforestation rate in Indonesia, invasive earthworms are expected to dominate soil communities across the region in the near future, in lieu of native soil biodiversity. Ecologically-friendly management approaches, increasing structural habitat complexity and plant diversity, may foster beneficial effects of invasive earthworms on plant growth while mitigating negative effects on below-ground biodiversity and the functioning of the native soil animal community.