Monday, November 15, 2010

Invasion of exotic earthworms & Bats in crisis

The Great Smokies recently published a couple of "Quick Dispatches" on their "Dispatches from the Field" web page.

Both stories are a little disturbing for those that love the Smokies.

The first article discusses the invasion of an exotic earthworm known as the Asian Jumping Worm. Why is this little guy causing such a problem?

Apparently the worm is a voracious eater, able to consume massive amounts of leaf litter that takes away a chief food source for leaf-litter-feeders such as millipedes, fly larvae and springtails. This in turn impacts animals that feed on these invertebrates.

The article states that in some areas on the western side of the Smokies, the Jumping Worm population is so high that there is almost no leaf litter left. This is resulting in native animals disappearing. There's also a lack of nutrients from decaying plants which is impeding the ability to build new soil.

Scientists from Austria, the University of Georgia in Athens, and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah have commenced a three year study on the worms and their impact on the park. You can read the full article by clicking here.

The second story delves into the widely reported White-Nose Syndrome that is spreading across the bat populations in the east. White-Nose Syndrome, a white fungus that grows on the nose, toes, and wing webbing of bats, is responsible for a 45% mortality rate each year among Little Brown Bats. Scientists think that this entire species may be extinct in 20 or fewer years as White-Nose Syndrome spreads through U.S. caves.

Bats play an essential part in the ecosystem by eating insects, including disease-carrying mosquitoes. They also pollinate flowers and food.

You can read this article by clicking here.


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