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A Talk on the Wild Side.

What's Eating Minnesota?

Tom LaLond

Tom LaLond, Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge Science Biological Aide. USFWS photo.

Today we’ve got a story out of Minnesota from Guest blogger, Tom LaLond.  Tom works at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in McGregor, Minn. as a science biological aid where he’s spending his summer learning about healthy ecosystems and some of the current challenges the USFWS has in maintaining forest health. He is currently working on a Bachelor’s degree in biology/wildlife management at Bemidji State University.

About mid-June when the weather is starting to really warm up, the flowers are coming into bloom and the trees are getting their green summer coats on.  It’s some of the best time to go hunting for some of the smallest, most destructive creatures to Minnesota’s forest health. Before I tell you what this menacing monster is, I want to tell you what exactly they do. 

Simply put, they eat, and eat, and eat!

When you see a tall green forest, worrying about the health of ground cover and leaf litter isn’t what most people spend time thinking about. Ground composition though, is one of the most important factors into a healthy forest. That's where you find orchids, trilliums, ferns and seedling "baby" trees. The leaf litter can be the only place different native plants can germinate and grow. Leaf litter is a great place for birds to nest and find a meal too.  

So what’s destroying these important forest components?

None other than the quiet earthworm.

earthwormsA day’s worth of earthworm collection from research efforts at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge. USFWS photo.

We brought them to the woods for our gardens and bait, but while they may be good at being fishing bait, they’re even more efficient at decomposing leaf litter.  When you have high concentrations of these invasive earthworms in your area, the ground will have little to no leaf litter.

So, don't spread them!  Make sure to throw your unused bait in the trash, so we can have healthy ground composition.  

Learn more about ongoing research at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge here.

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