Exploring Patterns of Exotic Earthworm Distribution in a Temperate Hardwood Forest in South-Central New York, USA
Received: 28 July 2004 Accepted: 08 August 2005 DOI:
Cite this article as: Suárez, E.R., Tierney, G.L., Fahey, T.J. et al. Landscape Ecol (2006) 21: 297. doi:10.1007/s10980-005-1785-2 Abstract
Exotic earthworms invading forests in Canada and northeastern United States that were naturally devoid of large detritivores cause major changes in ecosystem function. To assess their long-term impacts, studies are needed to elucidate the factors that control the patterns of earthworm invasion at the landscape level. We analyzed the distribution patterns of exotic earthworms in a northern hardwood forest in south-central New York (USA), as explained by landscape variables thought to be important in determining earthworm distribution. Forest type, slope angle, elevation, and the distance to agricultural clearings and wet refugia were significant predictors of earthworm presence, whereas local wetness index and the distance to streams and roads were not. Forest type and distance to agricultural clearings were the two most significant predictors. Our data suggest that areas close to agricultural clearings, dominated by mixed hardwoods, and located towards valley bottoms or on gentle slopes are very likely to support communities of exotic earthworms. Steeper slopes, areas dominated by American beech or eastern hemlock, and locations in the core of extensive forest landscapes have lower probabilities of invasion by exotic earthworms. When applied to a nearby area, our statistical model correctly predicted earthworm presence for 67% of 377 sampling points. Most of the mistakes were incorrect predictions of earthworm absence, suggesting that our statistical model slightly underestimated earthworm presence, possibly because of the pervasive influence of active agricultural fields adjacent to the test site.
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