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Invasive Earthworms Spread Mercury to Wildlife

Cara J

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It’s true that the early bird catches the worm but, in New England’s forests, the worm might actually be killing the bird with toxic trace metals. Invasive earthworms are absorbing toxic metal pollutants released from human activities, such as burning coal and lead gasoline from soil, which might be contributing to birds’ decline as well as the decline of amphibians and other mammals that feed on them, according to a new study published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry. Justin Richardson stands in a forest where he collected invasive earthworms for his study. Richardson found that earthworms had high levels of mercury and lead, which may be the reason for the decline of some bird and amphibian species.Image Courtesy: Justin Richardson “People are wondering how the metals are getting to these birds,” said lead author, Justin Richardson, who recently received his PhD at Dartmouth College. “There wasn’t a clear link from the ecosystem to birds and salamanders before. But other studies were finding they have high concentrations of mercury and my research suggests it’s not the insects they’re eating that are transferring the mercury. It’s these earthworms.” As part of their research, Richardson and his colleagues collected both exotic [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/invasive-earthworms-spread-mercury-to-wildlife/

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