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Though often praised for their use in composting, recreational fishing, and agriculture, earthworms can have detrimental effects to forest understories. This has been documented for European earthworms. However, much less is known about Asian species that have newly arrived in New York, colloquially known as “jumping worms.” Jumping worms of the genera Amynthas and Metaphire have rapidly spread throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and due to their high population density in invaded areas, large size, fast reproduction rate, and unique life history, they have the capacity to drastically alter forest ecosystems. They are known to decimate leaf litter on forest floors, potentially leading to altered nutrient cycling and change in soil structure, and are thought to affect microbial communities and fungal to bacterial ratios in soil. Through the use of artificial native plant communities that grew from late summer to fall, my study sought to explore these effects. I found that although jumping worms did not affect total biomass of the assembled plant communities, one species—Tiarella cordifolia—had a decrease in biomass when jumping worms were present. Additionally, worms did not affect individual soil nutrients or soil microbial communities, but depleted organic matter and seemed to create heterogeneity in soil chemical composition. My study looked at the affects of understudied genera of newly arrived invasive jumping worms, and demonstrates a trend of the potential impacts these worms have on forest understory ecosystems.
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Boram, Wallis Rose, "Effects Of Amynthas And Metaphire Jumping Worm Invasion On A Northeastern Temperate Deciduous Hardwood Forest Ecosystem" (2019). Senior Projects Fall 2019. 18.