Distribution and abundance of exotic earthworms within a boreal forest system in southcentral Alaska

Deanna Marie Saltmarsh, Matthew L. Bowser, John M. Morton, Shirley Lang, Daniel Shain, Roman Dial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Little is known about exotic earthworms (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae) in Alaska outside its southeastern panhandle. This study documents the distribution of exotic earthworms in the relatively undisturbed Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR), a large, primarily wilderness refuge in southcentral Alaska. We sampled 69 sites near boat launches, along road corridors, and in low human impact areas > 5 km from the road, finding three species of earthworms (Dendrobaena octaedra, Dendrodrilus rubidus, and Lumbricus terrestris). Most road sites (90%) and boat launches (80%) contained earthworms; half (50%) of low human impact sites contained earthworms. Distance to roads was the only significant factor in predicting earthworm occurrence; soil pH, soil moisture, leaf litter depth, and vegetation cover were not. The disparate distributions of these three species suggest that within the KNWR road construction and vehicle traffic played a role in dispersal of the widespread, abundant Dendrobaena octaedra and uncommon Dendrodrilus rubidus; bait abandonment appeared to be the primary method of introduction of Lumbricus terrestris. While the distribution of harmful anecic earthworms in KNWR is currently limited, the prohibition of Lumbricus spp. as bait within conservation units in Alaska may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-86
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Plant Science
  • Insect Science


  • Bait abandonment
  • Earthworm invasion
  • Lumbricidae
  • Non-native species
  • Taiga


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