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Dara Seidl ’10: The Dirt on Worms: Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors Concerning Invasive Earthworms in the Town of Webb, NY

By Upstate Institute on July 1, 2010

Submitted to the Department of Geography for Honors

The invasion of exotic earthworms in previously earthworm-free areas eliminates the forest litter layer, alters the carbon and nitrogen cycles and reduces native plant cover. Humans are the principal agents of invasive earthworm dispersal, spreading worms both inadvertently through the horticulture industry, logging and road travel, and voluntarily through composting and the disposal of earthworm bait on land.

This is the first study to focus on the human dimensions of earthworm invasion. Using a knowledge-attitudes-behavior (KAB) framework, this study explores the correlates of voluntary earthworm dispersal in the Town of Webb, NY and attempts to determine which groups of people are spreading earthworms through bait use and composting. The results uphold the knowledge-attitudes-behavior model for general invasive species eradication efforts, but not for voluntary earthworm dispersal. While general invasive species knowledge is high, only 17% are aware that earthworms are invasive.

The most important factors predicting earthworm disposal in forests are infrequent participation in fishing and efforts to eradicate invasive species, while the factors predicting composting participation are the belief that earthworms have a positive effect on plant life and self-reported environmental knowledge.

Download the paper to learn more.

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