Earthworms, Millipedes, and Soil Carbon in the Eastern U.S.
Soil invertebrates are an important component of the forest floor in deciduous forests of the eastern U.S., and their activities directly contribute to processes such as leaf litter decomposition and soil organic matter formation. Despite this there have been surprisingly few attempts to examine the composition of soil macroinvertebrate communities. Forest Service scientists sampled soil invertebrates across a wide range of deciduous forests in the eastern U.S. with a focus on large detritivores such as earthworms and millipedes. The scientists found only non-native earthworms and these only in the western sites (Missouri and Michigan), with very large numbers of earthworms collected at the warmer site (Missouri). Millipedes on the other hand were collected at all sites except the Missouri site, and in greatest abundance in the coolest and wettest site (New Hampshire).
These results suggest that non-native earthworms may interfere with the native millipedes, and further suggest that these non-native earthworms may significantly accelerate the decomposition of leaf litter in forest soils where they are abundant. The resulting changes to the soil could have profound effects on plant communities.
|Soil macroinvertebrate communities across a productivity gradient in deciduous forests of eastern North America||(publication)|
Forest Service Partners