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GHS Virtual Meeting: Earth worms and native plants
January 18, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Earthworms have long been hailed as a friend of the gardener, but nearly all earthworms in Ontario are introduced from Europe and Asia. While some species of earthworms benefit some species of plants, the introduction of invasive earthworms has caused major shifts in North American plant communities. Jumping worms, alternatively known as pheretimoid earthworms, crazy worms, snake worms and Alabama jumpers, were first identified in southern Ontario in 2014, and are an emerging conservation threat to a broad suite of native taxa, habitats, industries, hobbies, and vital ecosystem services. These earthworms in the family Megascolecidae originate in Asia, while the more widespread European species are in the family Lumbricidae. Jumping worms alter the structure and chemistry of the soil dramatically, leaving a grainy soil full of worm excrement (castings), and they can damage lawns, landscapes and forest habitat. Observations of the negative effects of jumping worms has been independently noted not only by forest ecologists, but by botanical garden staff, ornamental plant breeders and citizens. In this talk, I will first discuss the impacts and invasion history of earthworms, and jumping worms in particular. Next, I will provide information on identification of jumping worms.
Dr. Annise Dobson grew up on a farm outside of Cobden, Ontario. After completing her PhD at Cornell University, she began a position as a postdoctoral researcher at the Yale School of the Environment. Her research focuses on the impacts of jumping worms, white tailed deer and other stressors to native plant communities in Northeastern Canada and the United States. Currently, she is working to identify the movement of jumping worms through New York City, and assessing their impacts on urban plant communities.