It is now well established that European earthworms are re-shaping formerly glaciated forests in North America with dramatic ecological consequences. However, few have considered the potential invasiveness of this species assemblage in the European arctic. Here we argue that some earthworm species (Lumbricus rubellus, Lumbricus terrestris and Aporrectodea sp.) with great geomorphological impact (geoengineering species) are non-native and invasive in the Fennoscandian arctic birch forests, where they have been introduced by agrarian settlers and most recently through recreational fishing and gardening. Our exploratory surveys indicate no obvious historical dispersal mechanism that can explain early arrival of these earthworms into the Fennoscandian arctic: that is, these species do not appear to establish naturally along coastlines mimicking conditions following deglaciation in Fennoscandia, nor were they spread by early native (Sami) cultures. The importance of anthropogenic sources and the invasive characteristics of L. rubellus and Aporrectodea sp. in the arctic is evident from their radiation outwards from abandoned farms and modern cabin lawns into adjacent arctic birch forests. They appear to outcompete previously established litter-dwelling earthworm species (i.e. Dendrobaena octaedra) that likely colonized the Fennoscandian landscape rapidly following deglaciation via hydrochory and/or dispersal by early Sami settlements. The high geoengineering earthworm biomasses, their recognized ecological impact in other formerly glaciated environments, and their persistence once established leads us to suggest that geoengineering earthworms may pose a potent threat to some of the most remote and protected arctic environments in northern Europe.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgements This project was funded by CFANS faculty development support, an Institute on the Environment mini-grant, and an Institute for Advanced Study residential fellowship to Yoo and a Wallenberg Academy Fellow grant to Klaminder, as well as travel funding through a departmental fellowship to Wackett. We thank Thomas Westin and Matthias Olsen for valuable information on site history for the Jierpen and Padjelanta gradients, respectively.
- Earthworm invasion
- Land use