Non-native earthworms can cause abrupt changes in forest ecosystems by altering soil properties and depleting or redistributing soil carbon (C) stocks. The forests of Northern Maine are often perceived as having winters that are too harsh to support earthworm populations and that earthworms are restricted to more southerly regions. In this study, we report the discovery of European earthworms at two research sites in Northern Maine. At one site, earthworms were only found across a portion of the forest, and the median organic (O) horizon C stock in the area with earthworms was 34% less than that of areas without earthworms. At a second site, earthworms were found across the entire 60-ha forest and the median O horizon C stock was 39% less than that of a similar forest without earthworms. Consistent with reports from other regions, areas with earthworms had no or minimal eluvial (E) horizons, while earthworm-free locations always had E horizons. Earthworm presence was always associated with a topsoil (A) horizon, reflecting mechanical mixing and organic matter processing by earthworms. This is one of the first reports of non-native earthworm presence in Northern Maine forests and monitoring changes in soil C will be important for determining rates of C sequestration in these forests. Warmer winter temperatures, particularly winter minimums, and greater annual precipitation will likely increase the success of new earthworm introductions across Northern Maine forests. Management actions that limit the transport of earthworms into earthworm-free areas should be carefully evaluated to minimize the potential for new introductions.
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