, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 1223-1234
Date: 25 May 2006

Invasion Patterns of Lumbricidae Into the Previously Earthworm-free Areas of Northeastern Europe and the Western Great Lakes Region of North America

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We examine the patterns of expansion of exotic European earthworms in northeastern Europe and the western Great Lakes region of North America. These areas share many ecological, climatic and historical characteristics and are devoid of indigenous earthworm fauna due to Quaternary glaciations. These regions are being colonized by a similar suite of exotic lumbricid species and it is unlikely that this is the result of chance, but rather indicates that these species have particular characteristics making them successful invaders. The present macro-scale distributions of earthworm species in northern Russia show little connection to the pattern of the last glaciation. Rather, the primary factors that determine the current distributions of earthworm species include climatic conditions, the life history traits of different earthworm species, the suitability of habitat and intensity and patterns of human activity. In the western Great Lakes region of North America, there are three primary factors affecting current distributions of exotic earthworm species including the patterns of human activity and land use practices, the composition of particular source populations of earthworms associated with different vectors of transport and the soil and litter properties of habitats across the region. Disturbance of a habitat does not appear to be a prerequisite to the invasion and establishment of exotic earthworms. Analysis of the macro-scale distributions of Lumbricidae species in northeastern Europe may provide important insights into the potential of invasive European earthworm species to spread in North America, and identify potentially invasive species.