Earthworms at the Root of Sugar Maple Decline
A new study suggests that non-native worms are eating up the forest floor, causing sugar maples to die back and perhaps harming other forest dwellers.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out and corpses aren’t the only casualties. A Michigan Tech scientist has fingered non-native earthworms as a primary culprit in the decline of an iconic American tree.
Sugar maples are prized as much for their valuable lumber as for their sugary sap and dazzling fall colors. In Michigan alone, they are the basis of a multi-million-dollar industry. But several years ago, foresters began noticing that the crowns of the big trees appeared unhealthy, with bare limbs and little new growth.
“They were losing trees before they could harvest them,” said Tara Bal (SFRES) a research assistant professor of forest resources and environmental science. “We wondered what was causing it.” Her findings were published July 26, in the journal Biological Invasions. Read the full story.