Should we be worried about earthworms?

As I travelled the highway to Rainy River delivering papers last Wednesday, I could not help but notice the flocks of sea gulls in the field feasting on what I suppose are earthworms.
Gardeners love those earth animals as they break up leaves and other vegetation and leave behind rich nutrients for plants to grow on. I was always told that a healthy garden is filled with earthworms.
I know several fishermen who have patches of gardens that are designed to grow healthy crawlers to be used as live bait for walleye.
Their compost piles include everything from coffee grinds to lettuce to the peelings of potatoes. A shovelful of that compost will often yield enough bait for a full day’s fishing.
However, researchers have now discovered that the lowly earthworm is a “carbon spout” potentially doing great harm to our atmosphere. Who would have guessed that the prized worm could have a totally different impact on our ecosystems?
The recent discovery coincided with a discovery that saw the earthworm moving north through the boreal forests on northern Alberta. The earthworms had been wiped out across most of Canada over 10,000 years ago and were reintroduced by European settlers introducing new invasive species to the new world.
As new land was opened up, the worms spread across the country following trails and roads. Their ability to live within the boreal forests of northern Canada may be causing the forests to turn from a carbon sponge to a carbon spout.
No one knows what the long-term impact worms will have on the boreal forests.
The soil of boreal forests is a mixture of mineral soil and leaf material on the surface.
In non-boreal forests, earthworms drag down the leaves into the mineral soils enriching the soil and enabling the land to be more productive.
In boreal forests, researchers are discovering that the earthworms are consuming the composting materials without pulling the materials into the soil.
The result is that researchers are discovering that the spongy leaf material on the ground is actually being depleted without the soil being enriched.
One wonders how these earthworms will change the plant species we see in our forests. Will species of flowers and ferns found in our boreal forests that rely on the spongy leaf material disappear?
Will certain species of evergreen tress disappear making way for a Carolina species of trees to replace them.
Should we be concerned about the impact of the common earthworm?

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