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Earthworms in Brazil E-mail
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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Earthworms in Brazil


George G. Brown1, Samuel W. James2, Priscila T. Martins1,3, Daiane H. Nunes3, Amarildo Pasini3, Klaus D. Sautter4

1Embrapa Soybean, C.P. 231, Londrina, PR, 86001-970, Brazil;

2Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence-KS, 66045, USA;

3Universidade Estadual de Londrina, Departamento de Agronomia, C.P. 6001, Londrina, PR, 86051-970, Brazil;

4Centro Universitário Positivo, R. Prof. Pedro Viriato Parigot de Souza 5300, Curitiba-PR, 81280-330, Brazil.

Of the 306 known earthworm species in Brazil, 46 (15%) are exotics, introduced from other countries or continents. They belong mainly to the families Megascolecidae (11 spp.), Acanthodrilidae (12 spp.) and Lumbricidae (13 spp.). The remaining species belong to the Eudrilidae (2 spp.), Almidae (1 spp.) and Ocnerodrilidae (7 spp.) families. Many megascolecids (Amynthas or Metaphire spp.) and some acanthodrilids (espec. Dichogaster spp.) are found throughout the country, while other acanthodrilids (mainly Microscolex spp.) and the lumbricids (except Eisenia fetida & E. andrei that are used in vermiculture) have a more restricted distribution, being found only in the colder part of the country, where the subtropical climate is more conducive to their activities. Amynthas gracilis, the most widely distributed megascolecid in Brazil, was described from specimens of Rio de Janeiro by Kinberg (1867). This species, however, probably arrived much earlier, with the beginning of the exchange of plant and soil material between Asia and the New World. Pontoscolex corethrurus, although native to N Brazil, is the most widespread earthworm species in Brazil, and must be considered an exotic (and often invasive) species throughout most of the country. Most exotic species inhabit mainly disturbed habitats, generally close to human habitations, although they are sometimes found in native forests and grasslands. However, little is known of the effects of their invasion on the soil and its function, and on the populations and activity of soil organisms. In agroecosystems, the effects appear to be mostly positive, but in native ecosystems, the net effect of invasion may be negative. The study of the effects of exotic invasive species on soils, ecosystem function and biodiversity in Brazil are an urgent necessity, considering the extent of invasion, and the increasing human pressure on land use and natural resources.


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