Research project: "Global worming: Assessing invasive earthworm impacts on Arctic soils"
My research explores global w‘o’rming: I want to know how, when, and why humans spread earthworms across the formerly glaciated world (where they are not native), and what impacts the wrigglers have on soils and ecosystems once introduced. I’m also interested in finding low-cost and easily deployable methods to monitor soil processes.
The Swedish Arctic hosts some of the most pristine and sensitive environments in Europe, but most people are unaware that these precious ecosystems may be under threat from invasive earthworms. Contrary to the widely held belief that earthworms are beneficial, earthworm invasions in other parts of the world have driven major ecological shifts and increased greenhouse gas emissions from soils. My previous work in Norrland (here) showed that earthworms are indeed non-native and invasive here in Scandinavia, since native worms were eliminated during the last ice age. Now our research team is examining what impacts the invasive worms have on mountain soils and plants.
I am particularly interested in understanding how invasive earthworms modify the form of organic matter stored in Arctic soils, which might affect the ecosystem carbon balance and its temperature resilience. I am also collaborating with scientists at Stanford University to test how novel acoustic techniques might be used to monitor earthworm/faunal activity and bioturbation (mixing) of soils.
I thank the American Scandinavian Foundation and Kempestiftelserna for funding this work, as well as the amazing people and facilities at the Climate Impacts Research Centre for making this research possible!