Earthworm in clod of dirt

Gardeners love earthworms, but some researchers view them as invasive animals that may destroy whole forest ecosystems. ACSF Faculty Fellow Tim Fahey (NTRES) 

Earthworms in the Northeastern Woods

June 27, 2013

Earthworm in clod of dirt

Gardeners love earthworms, but some researchers view them as invasive animals that may destroy whole forest ecosystems. ACSF Faculty Fellow Tim Fahey (NTRES) recently took a walk in the woods with Dave Mance, editor of Northern Woodlands magazine. They discussed what worms are doing in northern forests:

Earthworms don’t move quickly—maybe five or 10 meters a year. And in the area where he’s studied, Fahey’s observation is that the worms aren’t really invading anymore. They exist in rich soil sites in the forest, adjacent to farm fields and roads and fishing ponds; they aren’t found in areas with acidic soils. Barring major ecosystem change, he guesses that they’re pretty much where they’re going to be. ...

I went for a worm walk with Fahey and a conservation group in eastern New York, and we found earthworms in an ecosystem that supported a good diversity of trilliums, wild ginger, jack-in-the-pulpit, and other native forest herbs. If we hadn’t doused the ground with mustard-laced water, an act that prompted the worms to race to the surface, we might not have even known they were there.

Read Mance’s column to learn Fahey’s “worm-conjuring” mustard recipe!