The quotes below (and the title) were extracted from a nicely-illustrated Atlantic article entitled Cancel Earthworms by Julia Rosen.
There is, and has been, a subterranean invasion going on beneath our feet here in the American Northeast; and the invaders are worming their way across the rest of the continent with nothing to stop them.
Most folks are not aware that, where the glaciers prevailed long ago, the land was scoured to bedrock, and the native earthworms were wiped out. The ones that replaced them are European imports. Chief among them, night crawlers and Jumping Worms.
The latter were “Originally from Korea and Japan, they are also known as Alabama worms, snake worms, or crazy worms. And they have the potential to remake the once wormless forests of North America.”
While we have been brought to understand that the more worms in our gardens, yards and woodlands, the better, it ain’t necessarily so:
“The earthworms are in the soil because the soil is healthy,” one authority says. “They are not necessarily doing anything for it.”
“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.”
Leaf fall that builds up under a forest of hardwood trees deposits a wealth of soil-creating minerals and organic matter.
“But when (jumping) worms show up, they devour the litter within the space of a few years. All the nutrients that have been stored up over time are released in one giant burst, too quickly for most plants to capture. And without cover, the invertebrate population in the soil collapses.
As the surface of the forest goes, so goes the neighborhood.
“With their food and shelter gone, salamanders suffer and nesting birds find themselves dangerously exposed. Plants like trillium, lady’s slipper, and Canada mayflower vanish, too. This may be because the worms disrupt the networks of symbiotic fungus that many native plants depend on, or because worms directly consume the plants’ seeds.”
“Jumping worms take out all the understory plants, leaving nothing for deer to chew on but the young trees. And that could spell trouble for the region’s prized maple syrup industry. “In 100 years’ time, maybe it’s going to be Aunt Jemima,” he says. “That’s a real bad horror story for people in Vermont.”
The take-home: there is little to be done. Experts recommend you purchse “only mulch and compost that have been treated to kill stowaways, and to avoid city compost made of leaves collected from sites all over town. He urges them to inspect potted plants for jumping worms and to buy bare-root varieties whenever possible.”
HINT: look for coffee-grounds looking worm casts. Find the whitish clitellum near the head vs toward the middle on night crawlers. And observe the much more frantic gyrations (too much coffee?)? See this website for a (non-claymation) short video and other information.
Here is a link to the claymation video for those reading Fragments via email subscription where the header image is missing.