Sandy Smith, the director of the Daniels Faculty's forestry program, was a contributor to a massive international study of earthworm populations that was published in the latest issue of Science. Her efforts landed her a guest spot on CBC's Quirks and Quarks, where she explained that Canada's abundance of earthworms may not actually be as environmentally friendly — or as natural — as laypeople may assume.
Many of the earthworms wriggling around in Canadian soil are not native to this part of the world. "Most of our species are from Europe," Smith told the CBC. "We have 19 or 20 [species], depending on how you count them, but only two are from North America."
What's more, worms have infiltrated Canada's northern forests, which historically have not had natural earthworm populations — a result of massive soil disturbances that occurred during the last glacial period.
"They reduce the leaf litter layer on forest floors," Smith said. "If you start to collapse that through worm assimilation of this leaf litter and material on the surface of the soil, then you start to expose the plants. Their roots get more exposed to colder winters or ice storm conditions."
Listen to the full interview here.