It may not be all about us humans – earthworms could be contributing to climate change too, according to a new study. What’s more, the research warns worm populations are set to boom in the next few decades. So should we be worrying about worm-induced warming?
Well, probably not in the grand scheme of things – but the humble earthworm does have more to do with greenhouse gas emissions than you might think. Earthworms don’t produce much in the way of emissions themselves. But the soil they live in does – and worms play a big part in soil.
In the new study, published in Nature Climate Change, researchers in Holland, the United States and Colombia compiled the results of 237 separate experiments from other published studies to explore earthworms’ role in global greenhouse gas emissions.
About 20 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and two thirds of nitrous oxide emissions come from soil. Emissions are produced by a number of natural biological processes involving plant roots and the microorganisms that live in the ground.