Public Release:  10th International Symposium on Earthworm Ecology

Athens, GA June 22 - 27

USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station

ATHENS, GA - The U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station Center for Forest Disturbance Science (CFDS) will host the 10th International Symposium on Earthworm Ecology (ISEE) in Athens, Georgia, on June 22 - 27, 2014. This is only the second time the symposium, which is held every four years, has met in the United States. More than 100 delegates representing 24 different countries registered to attend the 10th ISEE, which is the premier international meeting for earthworm ecologists and biologists.

"Earthworms occur on all continents except Antarctica, and they play essential roles in almost every type of ecosystem worldwide," says Mac Callaham, CFDS research ecologist who is the principal organizer of the symposium. "Until recently, research on these important organisms has been sparse, but as the numbers of earthworm researchers increase, there's a growing body of knowledge about earthworm ecology and biology."

The symposium will include sessions on the evolutionary and applied biology of earthworms based on molecular data, earthworm feeding ecology, biogeography, earthworm taxonomy and systematics, and invasive earthworms. The symposium also includes sessions organized around the ecosystem services provided by earthworms.

"There will also be a series of sessions focusing on evaluating earthworm ecology in the context of the definitions of ecosystem services developed by the United Nations Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. The categories of services that the U.N. developed--supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural--provide a unique framework for looking at earthworm ecology in relation to humans."

ISEE sessions related to ecosystem services will include presentations on:

  • The role earthworms play improving soil conditions for better plant growth and food production by regulating decomposition in natural systems;

  • The use of earthworms as food and medicinal resources, including studies on the organism's innate immunity to pathogenic organisms present in soil and potential anti-tumor properties;

  • Use of earthworms worldwide in waste management applications that also result in vermi(worm) compost, and proposed uses in water quality and air purification applications;

  • Earthworms as the basis for regional collection and/or production industries revolving around fish bait and as feedstock for fish and bird production; and

  • The use of earthworms in tests and assays, as ecotoxicological and immunological models, and as indicators of soil quality.

"Some areas of earthworm ecology don't necessarily fit into the ecosystem services framework, and in fact, there are some situations where earthworms are not considered beneficial. Nevertheless, all of these topics are all of critical importance for understanding the functions of earthworms, their relationships to other organisms, and their responses to management practices," says Callaham.

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For more, visit the ISEE website.

Headquartered in Asheville, NC, the Southern Research Station is comprised of more than 120 scientists who conduct natural resource research in 20 locations across 13 southern states (Virginia to Texas). The Station's mission is "...to create the science and technology needed to sustain and enhance southern forest ecosystems and the benefits they provide." Learn more about the Southern Research Station at: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/.

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