The Importance of the Earthworm


Earthworms are often referred to as ‘creepy crawlies’ and may not be seen as the cutest animals. But, what if you found out that earthworms have a large impact on life on earth?

Studies have shown that earthworms may have a positive impact in the fight against climate change as they feed on microbes living in soil. These microbes ingest decaying matter, and as part of the digestive process release carbon gasses into the earth.

When earthworms feast on these microbes, the process of decomposition releases less carbon than the microbes themselves. This is important – global warming causes soil temperatures to rise which stimulates the process of decay, releasing more carbon into the soil.

Charles Darwin and the Study of Earthworms

Charles Darwin was the first person to recognise what earthworms were capable of. He first tested lime and ash and was shocked when he discovered how well earthworms absorbed the substances. From then, Darwin studied earthworms for a further 40 years. He even stated that worm conservation is much more important than the conservation of other animals once we take into account their provision of what we now call “ecosystem services”, which is crucial for human survival.

From Darwin’s study of earthworms, ecologists now consider earthworms as a ‘keystone species’ because of how much they influence the chemical, biological and physical properties of soil.

Keystone Species

As well as contributing to the chemical, biological and physical properties of soil, earthworms are considered keystone species for many other reasons.

Important Food SourceThey are an Important Food Source

Earthworms are high in protein and are a healthy food source for a number of animals such as birds, foxes and shrews.

They are Recyclers

Earthworms play a huge role in breaking down organic matter and fertilising soil, they simply do this through their constant need to eat and excrete, producing ‘worm cast’.

This worm cast is full of beneficial bacteria and nutrients which provides a healthy habitat for plants and other organisms.

They Improve and Repair Soil

As they move, earthworms mix and loosen soil which helps it drain and aerate, bringing nutrients to the surface. This movement also helps to make the soil fertile and helps prevent erosion and flooding.

Research also shows that earthworms help clean land contaminated with large amounts of heavy metal such as zinc and lead, whilst other studies show how earthworms can speed up the restoration of degraded land on the tropics.

Earthworms are, therefore, a crucial element to the overall health of soil and have the ability to remove any damaging man made issues.

A Life Without Earthworms

Earthworms make it possible for us to live on the planet, who knows what could happen to life on earth if they are to become extinct but, what we do know is, it will have a damaging effect.

So next time you think of earthworms, don’t dismiss them as horrible animals, for all we know they could be the key to humanity.

2EA® are registered Low Carbon Energy Assessors, Consultants and ESOS Lead Assessors, offering both energy management and reduction services ranging from CCL/CHPQA Management to Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) consultancy.

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