, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 641-655

Human Dimensions of Earthworm Invasion in the Adirondack State Park

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Abstract

The invasion of exotic earthworms in the Northern Forest of the United States alters carbon and nitrogen cycles and reduces forest litter and native plant cover. Humans are the principal agents of dispersal, spreading earthworms both inadvertently via horticulture, land disturbance, and in the tires and underbodies of vehicles, and voluntarily through composting and the improper disposal of fish bait. A study in Webb, NY—a town located within the Adirondack State Park, one of the most celebrated cultural and ecological regions in the US—exposes the human dimensions of earthworm invasion. Environmental history research, interviews with residents and bait sellers, and a mail survey of town residents show that positive attitudes towards earthworms and their ecological effects lead to casual disposal or use of them. Earthworm use is a strong cultural practice and the risk of their continued introduction in the Adirondacks is high.