British Earthworms May Get Nudged Out by European Invaders Thanks to Climate Change

earthworm in grass image

Photo via schizoform via Flickr CC

Earthworms in Britain are seeing their turf taken over by a European species that is better suited for warmer, drier climates...the type of climate we're seeing more of thanks to global warming. At Whitley Wood in the New Forest, the change in the ecosystem has made it too much of a battle for native earthworm species to keep European invaders at bay. As non-native earthworms continue to make their way to Britain, hitching rides with imported plants, the balance of species will continue to shift. The Telegraph reports there are already 34 non-native earthworm species living in Britain, and while they're mainly in greenhouses, they outnumber the 26 native species.

"It was found that the UK worm has been going down in numbers and the one from Europe has been going up. The UK species has cocoons that are more resistant to frost whereas the European species is better able to stand dessication - and with climate change dessication is more of an issue so the balance between the two species is changing," says Emma Sherlock, a curator of invertebrates at the Natural History Museum in London.

Sherlock is concerned that if the species make their way out of greenhouses and into soils - an increasing possibility with climate change - then their impact on native flora and fauna is not clear.

Earthworms aren't the only species we see moving into one another's turf with climate change. Barn swallows and other bird species are being spotted much farther north than usual, as are a variety of sea creatures like starfish. As ecosystems shift temperatures, plants and animals shift location or die out - and all of this shifting is having unknowable impacts.

More on Climate Change Impacts on Species
Invasive Species: When Small Creatures Do Big Damage
Goodbye Maple Syrup: Climate Change Pushing Sugar Maple Out of Northeast U.S.
Should Humans Assist Animals Migrate So Climate Change Doesn't Kill Them?
9 Ways Climate Change Has Animals Running (Flying and Swimming) for Their Lives

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