Invasives inching into boreal forests raise climate concerns

In some parts of Alaska’s boreal forests, researchers found, earthworms’ biomass is 500 times greater than that of moose. ©JLS Photography – Alaska

Invasive species are wriggling their way into the boreal forests of North America, raising concerns that they could convert a landscape known for holding carbon into one that releases it. Although native earthworms disappeared from most of the region during the ice age, invasive species from southern Europe are arriving, the New York Times reports, “their spread hastened by roads, timber and petroleum activity, tire treads, boats, anglers and even gardeners. As the worms feed, they release into the atmosphere much of the carbon stored in the forest floor.” Their spread has climate scientists worried that they could contribute to climate change. Researchers have found that introduced earthworms are altering the plant types in northern Minnesota’s boreal forest. In some parts of Alaska’s boreal forest, the Times reports, earthworms’ biomass is 500 times greater than that of moose (Alces alces).

Read more in the New York Times.