Earthworm Invasions


So while skimming through the news the other day, a headline about an earthworm invasion caught my attention. Personally I thought earthworms were common and existed pretty much anywhere, but once I read the article about invasive earthworms being found in the Yukon and Northwest Territories I decided to look into it a little more. It turns out that the Territories had been earthworm free since before the last ice age, but only now are they appearing in the forests.

Recent studies have shown in Ontario and British Columbia, that since many native earthworms did not survive the last ice age, a lot of earthworms found have been introduced into the forests (Addison 2009). The introduction comes from different methods, such as fishermen using worms as bait or farmers using worms to help with their crops. The problem the worms cause is through changes in the soil such as phosphorous levels, pH levels, and nitrogen cycling within the forest environment (Addison 2009).

Currently the long term impacts of what effects the worms will have are unknown as they are just appearing. In areas such as Quebec, earthworm invasions have caused a decline in maple stands, due to changes in the phosphorous levels in the ground (Frelich et al. 2006). Since the effects can be seen in the lower areas of Canada, the effects on the earthworm free forests are unknown and cannot be estimated. The only information comes from looking at other parts of North America which have been affected and seeing problems in states such as Minnesota, whose boreal forests have some resemblance to Northern Canada and seeing how introduced earthworms are putting native plant species at risk of going extinct (Frelich et al. 2006).

The best thing that is going for the northern forests is that some of the introduced earthworms cannot withstand cold temperatures (Sanderson et al. 2012). The problems they do cause though are also disruption of the fine root biomass of the native plant species decreasing their fitness resulting in less healthy plants. The plants that do survive are only those that can adapt to the changing environments or invasive plants that came from same climates as the earthworms (Sanderson et al. 2012).

In the long run not a lot is currently known about how the earthworms will truly affect the forests in territories, though research is beginning to happen as ecologists are noticing changes in southern areas and making efforts to protect the northern areas (CBC). The research that has started in the north starts with searching for worms near roadways, campgrounds, and boat launches and has turned into a public outreach as well. The public outreach started from University of Alberta researchers whom followed the worms north, and to increase chances of finding the many different species other than verbal outreach they have also created Worm Tracking apps for phones for the public to mark on maps where they saw the worms.

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Addison, J. A. 2009. Distribution and Impacts of invasive earthworms in Canadian forest ecosystems. Biological Invasions. 11:59-79.

Frelich, L. E., Hale, C. M., Scheu, S., Holdsworth, A. R., Heneghan, L., Bohlen, P. J., and Reich, P. B. 2006. Earthworm invasion into previously earthworm free temperate and boreal forests. Biological Invasions. 8(6):1235-1245.

Sanderson, L. A., McLaughlin , J. A., and Antunes, P. M. 2012. The last great forest: a review of the status of invasive species in the North American boreal forest. Forestry. 85(3):329-340.


Exotic Pets

This week I chose to write about exotic pets and the problems that have been occurring is some areas such as Florida. The different types of exotic pets people choose to buy have always made me question their sanity, which is because lots of the problems animals are those that grow to lengths of 4 feet or more. While looking into the problem several news stories popped up about lately the Argentinian Tegu Lizard has been causing quite a problem (Lawrence 2014). These particular lizards grow up to 4 feet long and eat pretty much such as plants, eggs, small mammals, small reptiles, and birds. Having such a wide dietary assortment puts pressures on local wildlife numbers (Nolen 2012).

Lizards aren’t the only major problem another good example is the Burmese Python which started appearing in the late 70’s and then have increased year by year where populations are estimated to be in the tens or hundreds of thousands (Nolen 2012). The problems with pythons again are they eat pretty much anything including alligators which put nothing but unnecessary stress on the environment as well as being able to rapidly reproduce which is why populations have gotten so high in a short time. But recent studies have indicated that the decrease in the small mammals have a correlation with increased invasive animals (Nolen 2012).

What is currently being done is an attempt in trapping the animals and then euthanizing them in a humane manner. But a major problem that comes with the management of invasive species is the amount of money put aside in the governments but to deal with it. Jenkins (2013) found that the amount of money set for invasive animal’s research was far less than required in order to gain control of the situations which is why populations of some animals are still increasing whereas newer animals being released are now getting the chance to establish in the environment.

So not only is the money not there but the government has debated the regulation of animals in Florida, but the black market is always there. The lizard and python are only a couple examples of the problems in Florida there are many more those two I just picked. The problem is not with people buying the exotic pets, it is the fact that they buy them when they are small and they grow a lot bigger then they realized and no longer fit in the aquarium, or cost more to feed than first thought. There should be a better way of getting rid of unwanted exotic pets, or maybe even increasing their purchase price cause after looking online it’s amazing how cheap these animals are to buy upfront.

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Nolen, S. R. 2012. How Big is Florida’s Python Problem. Journal of American Vetrinary Medical Association. 240(7):778-782

Jenkins, P. T. 2013. Invasive animals and wildlife pathogens in the United States: the economic case for more risk assessments and regulations. Biological Invasions. 15(2):243-248.

Site with Pictures and Prices of Exotic Animals to Buy

Lawrence, D. 2014. Large Invasive Lizard Taking Over Parts of Florida. USA Today.



Cambodian Deforestation

Cambodian Deforestation

I honestly did not know what to right about nothing just seemed interesting this week to me. But while watching a documentary the other day on came across I guess somewhat interesting deforestation problems in Cambodia, particularly in the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary located in the Cardamom Mountains. Then when I looked into the park I found that Coudrat and et 2011 has found evidence of 10 of 11 of Cambodia primates listed on the IUCN red list. The mountain range and park is also known to be home to 67 threatened animals 17 threatened trees, but know to have abundance of over 100 mammals and 450 different species of birds (Grismer et al. 2010). So there is all this abundance in the forest but since it is located in remote areas of the country there comes trouble with conservation efforts (Coudrat et al 2011). The deforestation problem that they are going through is not typical of deforestation is many countries but instead trees are being cut down and the roots of the trees are boiled for the retrieval of safrole essential oil (Chu et al 2011). This is a problem in Cambodia because since the area is such a remote location conservation efforts are hard to enforce, it also makes the job dangerous cause the safrole essential oil is used in the making of Ecstasy. The problem conservationist are having is the enforcement as once the area has been forested, they get up and move to a new location to distill the oil leaving patches of forests that have been diminished (Michinaka et al 2013). Though conservation efforts have picked up in the areas, there is not a whole lot that can be done as the product will be harvested one way or another. Police and Drug Forces can only shut down so many sites as when one shuts down another appears it’s just a shame has to go on in an area like this though.

Word Count: 327
Chu, S.S., Wang, C. F., Du, S. S., Liu, S. L., and Liu, Z. L. 2011. Toxicity of the essential oil of Illicium defengpi stem bark and its constituent compounds towards two grain storage insects. Journal of Insect Science. 11(152):1-10

Coudrat, Z. C. N., Rogers, L. D., and Nekaris, K. A. I. 2011. Abundance of Primates reveals Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, Cardomam Mountains, Cambodia as a priority area for conservation. International Journal of Conservation. 45(3):427-434.

Michinaka, T., Miyamoto, M., Yokota, Y., Sokh, H., Lao, S., and Ma, V. 2013. Factors affecting forest area changes in Cambodia: An econometric approach. Journal of Sustainable Development. 6(5):12-25.


Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard

The Snow Lepoard is considered to be an elusive animal, and the country of Nepal is destined on making sure it survives for many years to come. The Snow Leopard is considered to be a species at risk caused by habitat loss, game hunting, and killed by local farmers. Devkota et al. found that on average farmers lose 3.6 animals each year representing 11% of their total livestock, with goats and sheep being the primary target of the snow leopard. The wild prey was observed and had combined density of 195.3 individuals per km2; the wild prey consists of blue sheep, musk deer, Himalayan marmot, Tibetan snowcock, Himalayan snowcock, hare, Royle’s pika and chukar. There is a wide variety of prey available but the blue sheep and small mammals tended to be the favourite animals for the snow leopard to feast on which was found through scat analysis.

The Government of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation decided to get involved and in 2013 made major advancements through the attachment of the first GPS tracking collar on a snow leopard. Before their primary methods of tracking involved use of many field cameras, as well are working with locals from the communities to designate the hot spots of the snow leopards to better manage their areas. The particular GPS collar that was attached will be monitored for the next two years to track the area in which the animal travels. The Government of Nepal has gained interest by involving local citizens to aid in the conservation method because they have knowledge of the areas and don’t want to lose the species.

Other countries along the Himalayan Mountains are aware of the species decline but not as committed, as globally there are an estimated 4,600 snow leopards and Nepal contains about 500 of those. China carries the largest population just over 2,500 but their populations are decreasing the quickest due to poaching for the bones and furs of the animal for medicines. The Government of Nepal though has had success in involvement by making communities aware of the animal, as well as giving them local snow leopard populations to monitor by tracking them and retrieving trail cameras to monitor populations. Another example shown in the National Post from 2011 is that in Nepal they got help from local schools through field trips in elementary schools, getting children help  with the installation of field cameras and animal tracking. The end conclusion would be that Nepal is able to gain support for the cause by involving locals of the community, as well as reach a major stepping stone by installing a GPS collar that can track the animal for 2 years. The involvement from members of the communities of all ages helps with conservation efforts as instead of just a small group of people involving everyone helps with conservation efforts.

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Devkota, B. P., Silwal, T., and Kolejka, J. 2013. Prey density and diet of snow leopard (Unica Unica) in Shey Phoskundo National Park, Nepal. Applied Ecology and Environmental Sciences. 1(4)-55-60.

World Wildlife Foundation, Snow Leopard

Image Location

National Post Article


Hunting an Endangered Species

Recently while reading the news, a story about hunting an endangered species caught my eye. The hunt is supposedly a method of conservation in which they auction off the right to hunt endangered African Black Rhinoceros. The hunt is targeted towards aggressive males whom can no longer breed, thought are aggressively territorial and harming young males who are at their mating prime. There are 5 permits for the hunt every year but have never left the country of Namibia until the Dallas Safari Club (a conservation group in Texas) got access to it. The money received in the auction will goes towards conservation efforts in Africa on the African Black Rhino (Merchant and Graczyk 2014).

The particular population of Black Rhinos in Namibia are more of a desert dwelling animal, and have the largest free ranging population of all rhinoceros species. The population was hunted to near extinction in the 1960’s, and 1970’s but when conservation efforts took place in the late 1980’s the population began to rebound. The population was severely impacted due to the hunters were after the horns and mature males were the primary target (Brodie et al. 2011). On top of hunting a main cause of decline was also caused by habitat loss through development by settlers, though since being placed on the endangered species list, Brodie et al. (2011) have observed of the 1992 till 2005 that the population is increasing at a slow but stable rate of 1% per year.

Populations have been increasing at slow rates since conservation took over, but the underlying problem which has been seen is the dominant males which are the targets of yearly hunts. The issues have to be dealt with but calls the question is there a more ethical way to deal with the issue? Though it was the first year it was tried through international auction, the money made and greater than previous years once opened to an international market. If this international auction continues year after year, will this conservation effort turn into a charity trophy hunt? Taking into account how close these rhinos came to extinction, there should really be a more ethical way of managing aggressive males who can no longer mate.

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Chris Jackson / Getty Images

African Black Rhinoceros
(Image courtesy of The National Post/Chris Jackson Getty Images)

Brodie, J. F., Muntifering, J., Hearn, M., Loutit, B., Loutit, R., Brell, B., Uri-Khob, S., Leader-Williams, N., and du-Preez, P. 2011. Population recovery of black rhinocerouses in north-west Namibia following poaching. Animal Conservation. 14(4):354-362.
Available:   (accessed January 15th 2014)

Merchant, N. and Graczyk, M. 2014. Outrage as black rhino hunt permit sold for $350, 000 at Dallas Safari Club auction. National Post.
Available:   (accessed January 15th 2014)