Earthworms: Climate Villains

Lee E. Frelich, Ph.D. director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology, will speak on “How the Lowly Earthworm Becomes a Climate Villain” for the Climate Change Coalition of Door County’s Oct. 9 program at Crossroads at Big Creek, 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay. The program begins at 7 pm.

Earthworms are important regulators of soil structure and nutrient, water and carbon cycles. But they are also invasive species that transform previously earthworm-free habitats in the northern tier of U.S. states and Canada, with major implications for the response of forests to climate change. Multiple species are creating cumulative effects, including warming and drying soils in summer and changing conditions for seed germination; compacting mineral soil and thus causing more runoff during heavy rainfall, erosion and loss of plant nutrients; disrupting symbiotic soil biota that are essential for tree growth; and promoting invasive earthworm-tolerant species like garlic mustard, honeysuckle and buckthorn, which crowd out young trees. They also impact carbon dioxide levels because they eat leaf litter, (i.e., stored carbon), digest it and release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

Frelich has authored more than 160 publications with 200 coauthors from 23 countries, including major works for Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. His research has been featured in the news media more than 450 times, including The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS Radio Osgood Files, and National Geographic. His current research interests include large-scale fire and wind, earthworm invasion, effects of deer and moose browsing, and climate change.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information visit

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