Ecological Impacts of Invasive Earthworms

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Ecological Impacts of Invasive Earthworms

If you have used an earthworm for fishing bait, picked a worm out of your garden, or noticed a worm crawling across a sidewalk after it rains you have been in the presence of an invasive species. The Great Lakes Region has no native earthworm species as a result of the last Ice Age, during which much of the region was hidden beneath up to a mile of ice and the rest was frozen in permafrost. The earthworms that are now nearly ubiquitous in the Great Lakes Region are of European origin and have followed in the wake of European settlement and agriculture. Known to be beneficial in agricultural ecosystems, it has only recently been realized that the invasions of European earthworms into previously worm-free hardwood forests of the Great Lakes are profoundly influencing nutrient cycles, understory plant diversity, and the patterns of spread among invasive plant species. This project is investigating the effects of invasive earthworms on overstory forest dynamics, through the proxy of tree rings, with potential implications for the forest managers throughout the Great Lakes Region.

Funding sources: Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP); UW-Platteville Pioneer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, UW-Platteville Scholarly Activity Improvement Fund

Products

Press and Media
Publications
  • Larson, E.R., Kipfmueller, K.F., Hale, C.M., Frelich, L.E., and Reich, P.B. 2010. Tree rings detect earthworm invasions and their effects in northern hardwood forests. Biological Invasions 12:1053–1066. DOI 10.1007/s10530-009-9523-3
Presentations (*indicates undergraduate student)
  • Evan R. Larson. 2015. The profound impacts of invasive earthworms on hardwood forests in Wisconsin. Ralph Nuzum Lecture Series, Kickapoo Valley Reserve, June 25, La Farge, Wisconsin.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2014. Developing a new application in tree-ring research to study invasive earthworm impacts. Faculty and Staff Research Day, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, September 30, Platteville, Wisconsin.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2013. Ecological upheaval from the ground up: A tree-ring perspective on invasive earthworm impacts in Great Lakes forest ecosystems. University of Missouri Geography Department Colloquium, November 14, Columbia, Missouri.
  • Evan R. Larson, Thomas Wilding, Kurt F. Kipfmueller, Ryan Hueffmeier, Cindy Hale, Lee Frelich, Peter Reich. 2013. Invasive earthworms alter climate-tree growth relationships. Invited Plenary Lecture, Second American Dendrochronology Conference, May 13–17, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson.
  • McKaylee Duquain*, Giselle Varrientos*, Brennan Waupoose*, Gabriel Brownell*, Sara Allen*, Thomas Wilding, Evan R. Larson. 2013. Invasive earthworms effect on northern hardwood forest productivity. Second American Dendrochronology Conference, May 13–17, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2013. Invasive earthworms as ecosystem engineers: Using tree-rings to track earthworm impacts on forests in the Great Lakes Region of North America. Department of Earth Sciences lecture series, Willamette University, February 26, Salem, Oregon.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2013. The role of invasive earthworms as ecosystem engineers and the associated implications for tree-ring research in the Great Lakes Region of North America. Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, February 21, Tucson, Arizona.
  • Brennan Waupoose* and Evan R. Larson. 2012. Invasive Earthworms Increase Tree Sensitivity to Drought. Annual Meeting of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, November 1–3, Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Brennan Waupoose*, Giselle Varrientos*, Sara Allen*, Gabriel Brownell*, McKaylee Duquain*, Thomas Wilding, and Evan R. Larson. 2012. Invasive earthworms cause dramatic changes in hardwood forests. WiscAMP Annual Meeting, October 19, Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Giselle Varrientos* and Brennan Waupoose*, McKaylee Duquain*, Gabriel Brownell*, Sara Allen*, Thomas Wilding, and Evan R. Larson. 2012. Using tree rings to study the effects of invasive earthworms on tree growth. Annual Meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, October 11–14, Seattle, Washington.
  • Sara Allen*, Melissa Gormley, Evan R. Larson. 2012. The effects of invasive earthworms on the Menominee Forest of Northern Wisconsin. UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors, April 25, Platteville, Wisconsin.
  • Nicholas Flinner* and Evan R. Larson. 2012. Tracking earthworm invasion fronts at Bay Lake Camp, Minnesota. UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors, April 25, Platteville, Wisconsin.
  • Leon Fowler* and Evan R. Larson. 2012. Assessing the impacts of invasive earthworms on tree growth in the Menominee Forest. Geoscience Alliance Conference, March 17–18, Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Montana.
  • Henry Dodge*, Steven G. LaBarge*, Sara Allen*, Leon Fowler*, Brody Knaak*, and Evan R. Larson. 2012. Invasive Earthworm Impacts on tree growth in the Menominee Forest of Northern Wisconsin. 9th Annual Posters in the Rotunda: A Celebration of Undergraduate Research, March 7, Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Brody Knaak*, Sara Allen*, Henry Dodge*, Leon Fowler*, Steven G. LaBarge*, and Evan R. Larson. 2012 Exploring the potential effects of invasive earthworms on growth rates in sugar maple (Acer saccharum) trees in the Menominee Forest of northern Wisconsin. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, February 24–28, New York, New York.
  • Sara Allen*, Henry Dodge*, Leon Fowler*, Brody Knaak*, Steven G. LaBarge*, and Evan R. Larson. 2011. Invasive Earthworm Impacts on tree growth in the Menominee Forest of Northern Wisconsin. Biolief 2011: 2nd World Conference on Biological Invasions and Ecosystem Functioning, November 21–24, Mar del Plata, Argentina.
  • J. Elmo Rawling III, Brooke Burich*, Kristy Stanley, and Evan R. Larson. Impact of Earthworms on Soil Particle Size Distribution in Sandy Soils, Door Peninsula, Wisconsin. 2011. West Lakes Association of American Geographers Conference, November 10–12, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Evan R. Larson, Sara Allen*, Henry Dodge*, Leon Fowler*, and Brody Knaak*. 2011. Examining the ecological effects of invasive earthworms on the Menominee Forest: Results from the field. College of the Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute, July 14, Keshena, Wisconsin.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2010. Enhancing minority participation through collaborative research: Examining the ecological effects of invasive earthworms on the Menominee Forest. College of the Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute, December 8, Keshena, Wisconsin.
  • Evan R. Larson, Kurt F. Kipfmueller, Cindy M. Hale, Lee E. Frelich, Peter B. Reich. 2010. Using tree rings to detect earthworm invasions and their ecological effects in a mixed hardwood forest, northern Minnesota. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, April 14–18, Washington, D.C.

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