Earthworm species distributions and soil properties in northern Michigan (Murchie 1954, Crumsey 2008 - 2010)


Understanding environmental factors related to exotic earthworm distributions across invasion stages (i.e., introduction, colonization, regional spread) is critical for assessing long-term impacts on previ- ously earthworm-free forests. Studies following earthworm community establishment in North America, however, remain limited. We address this by characterizing historical and current exotic earthworm distributions in a regionally representative aspen-dominated forest, where their presence was first documented in the early 1900s. We map historic earthworm distribution records in a 360-km2 area surrounding our current study site, and re-analyze data collected nearly 60 years ago to inform contemporary associations between species densities and environmental factors. Field surveys were conducted over two years (2008-2010) using 10 permanent plots, with concurrent measurements of environmental ‘effect factors’ determined by large-scale ecosystem processes (leaf litter inputs, soil physical properties, soil C and N content), and environmental ‘response factors’ likely impacted by earthworm activity over short time scales (annual litter mass loss and soil isotopic values).