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An experimental test of facilitation between non-native earthworms

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Invasional meltdowns, in which facilitation between species causes an accelerating increase in the number of introduced species or impacts, can cause large impacts in invaded systems. Earthworm invasion of northern forests has been suggested as a meltdown, with litter-dwelling species altering soil structure and facilitating mineral-soil or deep-burrowing earthworms that may be less capable of invading intact forest floors. We examined facilitation and synergistic effects of a litter-dwelling species (Dendrobaena octaedra Savigny, 1826) and a deep-burrowing species (Lumbricus terrestris L., 1758). Boreal forest soil cores were inoculated with D. octaedra, L. terrestris, both species, a higher density of L. terrestris, or no worms. After 4.5 months, we found no differences in survival or biomass between treatments for either species. Cocoon production did not differ for L. terrestris, but D. octaedra produced significantly fewer cocoons with L. terrestris. The two species had an additive effect on organic horizon depths and bulk densities. Thus, they did not appear to facilitate each other or have synergistic effects as would be predicted in an invasional meltdown.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 16, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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