No evidence of facilitation between invasive Rhamnus cathartica (European buckthorn) and invasive earthworms in west central Minnesota

Peter H. Wyckoff, Brenna Hucka, Andrew Shaffer, Matthew Bombyk, Angela Wipf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Biological invaders are seen as a real and growing threat to biodiversity, and there is much interest in the role that positive interactions among invasive species may play in promoting further invasions. Both the invasive tree Rhamnus cathartica (European buckthorn) and invasive Eurasian earthworms are reported to alter forest dynamics across large parts of the northern portion of the eastern deciduous forest of North America. Some evidence suggests that the two invaders may be aided by mutual facilitation, and it has recently been hypothesized that interactions between the two organisms may form the basis of a larger multi-species "invasional meltdown." We examined covariance among R. cathartica and earthworm distributions over a seven year period at six forested sites near the prairie-forest border in west central Minnesota and found no evidence to support facilitation. In fact, the correlation between R. cathartica and earthworm abundance and biomass was weak: 95% confidence intervals for Kendall's tau correlation coefficients in some cases indicated a negative association among the two organism types, often suggesting no association, and never allowing for a positive association greater than τ= 0.38. Individual earthworm species varied in their correlation with R. cathartica, but most correlations were negative and none were substantially positive. We thus suggest that the relationship between these invaders may be more complicated than previously thought and question whether earthworms and R. cathartica can be seen as the foundation of an invasional meltdown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-317
Number of pages7
Issue number4-6
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by University of Minnesota Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program grant to A. S. and B. H. and University of Minnesota, Morris MAP grants supported A. W, A. S. and M. B. Thank you to the UMM Fall 2006 and 2011 Biology 3131 classes for their help in the field, and to B. Bombyk for the work she did setting up the plots at Pomme de Terre Park. Thank you to C. Hale for helping us learn to identify earthworms and to J. HilleRisLambers for advice on the statistical analysis. We are also grateful to J. HilleRisLambers, A. Kane Ettinger, A. Fontanetta, T. Wyckoff and S. Yang and two anonymous reviewers for providing feedback on this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier GmbH.


  • Earthworms
  • Invasion
  • Rhamnus cathartica


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