Removal of invasive shrubs (Ligustrum sinense) reduces invasive earthworm abundance and promotes recovery of native earthworms
Callaham, Mac Jr
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Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) has become established in riparian forests across the Southern Piedmont, and continues to expand in these habitats. This study investigated the possibility of a facilitative relationship between Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) and exotic earthworms. Earthworms and some soil properties were sampled five years after the removal of privet at sites in the Athens area. Earthworm abundances and soil properties were compared between sites with privet, privet removal sites, and reference sites where privet had never established. Introduced European earthworms were more prevalent under privet, and privet removal reduced their relative abundance in the community. Conversely, the relative abundance of native species was highest in reference sites. Soils under privet were characterized by significantly higher pH relative to reference plots and privet removal facilitated a reduction in pH. These results suggest that privet-mediated effects on soil pH may confer a competitive advantage to European lumbricid earthworms. Furthermore, removal of the invasive shrub appears to reverse the changes in soil pH, and may allow for recovery of native earthworm fauna.