When we think of invasive species, earthworms rarely come to mind. And yet earthworms are foreign invaders that were first introduced to this country by European settlers hundreds of years ago and have been making their home here ever since.

“We’ve always seen earthworms. They’re around the gardens and where we live, so we don’t really connect that they don’t necessarily belong there,” says Sandy Smith, a forestry professor at the University of Toronto. “When Europeans colonized North America, we brought those worms with us because, as every gardener or farmer knows, worms are good for the garden.”

Earthworms long ago earned a sterling reputation as ecosystem engineers that excel at decomposing organic matter and mixing it into the soil. In

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