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“Until about 10,000 years ago, a vast ice sheet covered the northern third of the North American continent. Its belly rose over what is now Hudson Bay, and its toes dangled down into Iowa and Ohio. Scientists think it killed off the earthworms that may have inhabited the area before the last glaciation. And worms—with their limited powers of dispersal—weren’t able to recolonize on their own.”
What’s Happening: A globalized world means that earthworms have wound up all over the world–European earthworms now live on every continent except for Antarctica. But here’s the issue, as the Atlantic explained it:
Although earthworms can be helpful for breaking up compacted soils and breaking down organic matter, worms can also cause trouble in agricultural fields.
Their burrows create channels that allow nutrients and pesticides to leak from fields into nearby waterways, and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to escape into the atmosphere.
In fact, a 2013 review of recent research found that worms likely increase greenhouse-gas emissions.
Jumping Worms: One the of most egregious invasive worm species are jumping worms, which are known for the violent way in which they wiggle. As Nature explained,
Jumping worms, consisting of various non-native species from multiple genera, have become established in a number of eastern and southeastern states. In 2013, species from the genus Amynthas were confirmed for the first time in the Upper Midwest, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.
In the forests and prairies of the Upper Midwest, the jumping worm could significantly alter habitats and decrease biodiversity.
What’s even more startling is that farmers are reporting that jumping worms are killing their crops in ways that European earthworms never did.
Why This Matters: It’s still unclear about all the impacts that invasive earthworms might have on ecosystems. For one, there’s a chance they could speed up climate change as they speed up the process of decomposition in soil and release CO2 as a result. On the other hand, worm casings may be able to sequester carbon in the soil. We wrote earlier this week about the challenges we’ll face in managing nature and biodiversity in the climate change era, looks like we have to add worms to the list!
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer As the world warms, it’s not just people who are feeling the heat. Bats are also susceptible to extreme heat, and overheated bat boxes can be “a death trap,” the Guardian reports. In the wild, bats move between rock and tree crevices in search of a perfectly moderated temperature. […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A new report entitled The World’s Forgotten Fishes from the World Wildlife Fund has found that there has been a “catastrophic” decline in freshwater fish, with nearly a third of all freshwater fish species coming perilously close to extinction. The statistics paint a sobering picture: 26% of all critically […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Move over Dolly, there’s a new clone in town and her name is Elizabeth Ann the Black-Footed ferret. You read that right; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced on Thursday that it had successfully cloned the first U.S. endangered species. Elizabeth Ann was born on December 10, […]
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