White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fecal pellet decomposition is accelerated by the invasive earthworm Lumbricus terrestris
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Biological Invasions. online. 7 p.
Exotic European earthworms have expanded into worm-free forests of the United States. Concurrently, populations of the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, have also increased. During winter, deer use hemlock stands for cover while browsing elsewhere, creating a net organic matter flux into these stands. Deer fecal pellets can provide annual inputs of 48.1 kg C, 1.4 kg N, and 1.3 kg Ca per hectare. We tested the hypothesis that these pellets were readily consumed by invading earthworms. The litter-feeding anecic earthworm Lumbricus terrestris redistributed fecal pellets and accelerated mass and nutrient loss rates. These losses are likely due to the combination of enhanced fragmentation and decomposition as earthworms drag pellets into their burrows for consumption. This nutrient subsidy may be an important source of high quality "litter" input to hemlock stands, which may in turn facilitate the invasion of these stands by earthworms under high deer densities.
Keywordscalcium C:N ratio European nightcrawler (umbricus terrestris) fecal pellets white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Karberg, Noah J.; Lilleskov, Erik A. 2008. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fecal pellet decomposition is accelerated by the invasive earthworm Lumbricus terrestris. Biological Invasions. online. 7 p.