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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!
Do you have a good eye? Are you surprisingly good at Where’s Waldo and like Walruses? If so, we have great opportunity for you! The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is seeking volunteers to help count Atlantic walruses…from space. Sea ice is retreating fast as global temperatures rise, forcing walruses to crowd on smaller floes […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer At a UN conference in Kunming, China, President Xi Jinping set aside $230 million to form a fund that preserves biodiversity in developing countries. This announcement was made at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity talks (COP15) which are dedicated to preserving delicate ecosystems and preventing plants and animals […]
The people have spoken! The portly patriarch of paunch persevered to pulverize the Baron of Beardonkadonk in the final match of #FatBearWeek 2021. 480 Otis can now boast a bevy of bests w/ this fourth 1st place finish. As we celebrate, like a true champ 480 is still chowing down. pic.twitter.com/rLvm7pvGJW — Katmai National Park […]
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