Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research (Dec 2023)

The legacy of ecological imperialism in the Scandes: Earthworms and their implications for Arctic research

  • Philip Jerand,
  • Jonatan Klaminder,
  • Johan Linderholm

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 55, no. 1


Read online

ABSTRACTIn the nineteenth century, numerous settlements were established in the alpine region of Fennoscandia (the Scandes), an area that later became a major international scene for Arctic research. Here we raise awareness of this era and show that earthworm-driven bioturbation in “pristine” soils around contemporary Arctic research infrastructure is caused by soil fauna left behind during early land use. We use soil preserved under an alpine settlement to highlight that soils were not bioturbated when the first house was built at a site where bioturbation is now widespread. A review of archived material with unique site-specific chronology constrained the onset of bioturbation to the post-1871 era. Our results suggest that small-scale land use introduced earthworms that now thrive far beyond the realms of former cultivated fields. The legacy of soil fauna from this example of “ecological imperialism” still lingers and should be considered when studying soils of the Scandes.