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Feature: Earthworms May Be Critical to Planetary Health and Well-being

From: Ashwani V.
Sent on: Monday, October 3, 2011 9:28 PM
To: Environmental Ecology News <[address removed]>
Cc: Sustainability Planning News <[address removed]>
From: Yahoo News Groups <[address removed]>
Date: Mon, 3 Oct[masked]:19:39 -0400
Subject: Feature: Earthworms May Be Critical to Planetary Health and
     The average worm weighs less than half an ounce

Sunday October 2,2011
By Stuart Winter

EARTHWORMS have been burrowing their way through the ground for 300 million years but now they have become the secret weapon in the war against ?climate change.

Instead of just wriggling around and providing food for birds, ?earthworms can help prevent ?flooding and droughts, a major four-year study reveals.

Floods and droughts are caused by cycles of dry weather and monsoon-type rains, said by some experts to be caused by global warming.

And this is where the humble earthworm can help the planet.

The average worm weighs less than half an ounce but it is able to eat through a third of its own weight in soil a day.

When worms tunnel the soil absorbs more water - meaning that in their millions worms can turn the ground into one vast sponge soaking up the water in floods but retaining it during dry spells.

Now farmers can play a vital part in combating the devastation caused by floods and droughts by encouraging earthworms, according to experts who ?carried out the scientific study in Leicestershire.
When fields are not ploughed, the soil condition is improved ?naturally by the tunnelling of ?earthworms

The research by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Society and supported by ?Heritage ?Lottery Funding will help to develop techniques to combat these two threats to the land.

Dr Chris Stoate, head of research at the society's ?Allerton Project farm, said: "Our research shows that farmers can make a huge difference in helping to ?mitigate the effects of ?climate change.

"When fields are not ploughed, the soil condition is improved ?naturally by the tunnelling of ?earthworms, which absorb water at a rate of four to 10 times that of fields which are without worm ?tunnels.

"This in turn helps the soil to take up water during storms and to retain it during drought. It also helped to buffer our stream from flooding during heavy rain."

One of the key ?recommendations in the study is for farmers to cut back on traditional ploughing to ?harness the power of the army of the eco-friendly microbes and earthworms that live in the soil.

This then increases the capacity of the ground to take up water ?during storms and then to retain it during droughts.

The worm has proven to be one of nature's great survivors and also to be a vital player in the environment, breaking down soil, recycling nutrients and being an important part of the farmland food chain. Birds as varied as buzzards, owls, and ?kestrels all feed on worms.

Some worms can live 10 years and although they have no teeth, arms, eyes and legs they can move 27 feet per hour underground.

Farming Minister Jim Paice ?welcomed the study. He said: "If we use and manage our natural assets in a sustainable way, they will ?continue to meet not only our needs such as for energy, sustenance, fresh water and fertile soils, but also the needs of future generations."

***   NOTICE:  In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed, without profit, for research and educational purposes only.   ***

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