If it’s not cows, it’s earthworms destroying our planet and its frail ecosystem. That’s what a team of researchers from the Netherlands, U.S. and Canada has decided by studying the results of 237 experiments involving earthworms – all of them. What they got was that (more or less) 20% of the global CO2 emissions and 2/3 of nitrous oxide emissions come from soils “infected” with earthworms.
By burrowing the soil, earthworms make it more porous and interact with bacteria that produce most of the carbon dioxide emissions originating from soil. A rise in earthworm population is expected (probably because we’re cultivating more and more crops), so the soil-contained carbon dioxide is about to break even freer.
As for the nitrous oxide part, it is produced by the earthworms in their own guts, which are responsible for a 42% increase of NOx in soil. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, rises by only 33% because of these (to some) gross little creatures.
“Over the next few decades, earthworm presence is likely to increase in ecosystems worldwide. For example, large parts of North American forest soils are now being invaded by earthworms for the first time since the last glaciation,” said the study.
However, the same study recognizes the importance of earthworms for the ecosystem: “Earthworms play an essential part in determining the greenhouse-gas balance of soils worldwide,” the report said. “Our results suggest that although earthworms are largely beneficial to soil fertility, they increase net soil greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Like I said in the beginning: if it’s not about the poor farting cows, it’s earthworms. But not us… we don’t pollute as much, do we? As you can see in the image above (click to enlarge), the earthworm has a brain. I think we should sue him.