Predicting exotic earthworm distribution in the northern Great Lakes region

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Identifying influences of earthworm invasion and distribution in the northern Great Lakes is an important step in predicting the potential extent and impact of earthworms across the region. The occurrence of earthworm signs, indicating presence in general, and middens, indicating presence of Lumbricus terrestris exclusively, in the Huron Mountains located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were modeled using generalized linear models and stepwise regression to identify important environmental variables. Models were then applied to earthworm occurrence data from Seney National Wildlife Refuge, also located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to validate results. Occurrence of earthworm signs was associated with high soil pH, high basal area of earthworm preferred overstory species, and north facing aspects. Middens of L. terrestris were associated with high soil pH, high basal area of preferred species, and close proximity to roads. The resulting model for L. terrestris was incorporated into a geographic information system (GIS) to map the expected distribution, both current and potential, across the study area. Results indicate that L. terrestris has not yet fully saturated its potential habitat, as it is currently found close to roads and has yet to establish in most interior forests sampled. Comparing field measured data to GIS layers revealed limitations in the precision of publicly available spatial data layers that should be addressed in future attempts to predict the extent of earthworm invasion across the larger Great Lakes region. However, within the Huron Mountains, it is predicted that the distribution of L. terrestris will cover, at minimum, 41 % of the area.

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Biological Invasions