Invasion Of The Earthworms!

Think of earthworms and a few things come to mind: they make great bait for fishing, they aerate the soil, and they’re an excellent addition to a compost pile. But, what a lot of people don’t know is many earthworms are actually invasive species.  "The western Great Lakes region, which is the area we're focused on, has no native earthworms," says ecologist Cindy Hale, a research associate with the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. Earthworms may be small but when they take over a forest, the impact is dramatic. They cause the rapid incorporation of organic material into the soil, changing its structure, chemistry and nutrient dynamics. What's known as the duff layer is suddenly removed, and this duff, or decaying organic material on the forest floor, is habitat for several species of insects, spiders, small vertebrates, bacteria and fungi. It is also the primary rooting zone for most plants. With support from the National Science Foundation, Hale’s team created the Great Lakes Worm Watch website and outreach programs to stop the spread of non-native earthworms and to clear up the common misconception that they’re harmless.

Provided by the National Science Foundation

Runtime: 2:34

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