Removal of invasive shrubs reduces exotic earthworm populations
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Invasive species are a leading threat to native ecosystems, and research regarding their effective control is at the forefront of applied ecology. Exotic facilitation has been credited with advancing the success of several aggressive invasive species. Here, we suggest using the knowledge of exotic facilitations to control invasive earthworm populations. In northern hardwood forests, the invasive shrubs Rhamnus cathartica (buckthorn) and Lonicera x bella (honeysuckle) produce high quality leaf litter, and their abundance is positively correlated with exotic earthworms, which increase nutrient cycling rates. We performed an invasive plant removal experiment in two northern hardwood forest stands, one dominated by buckthorn and the other by honeysuckle. Removal of invasive shrubs reduced exotic earthworm populations by roughly 50% for the following 3 years. By targeting invasive species that are part of positive feedback loops, land managers can multiply the positive effects of invasive species removal.
KeywordsEuropean earthworms Invasive species Invasion meltdown
Funding was provided by NSF DEB-0344019 to RLL and MDM. We thank the UW Arboretum for site use permission, P. Zedler for sparking our interest in the topic, and K. Lawson for field assistance.
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