Earthworm Week and Charles Darwin’s worms

Earthworms
This week (23-29 March 2009) is Earthworm Week and Buglife,
the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, has put together resources, including a
Worm Poetry Competition, aimed at schools to raise the earthworms' profile and
raise awareness of their importance for agriculture. Read on to find out more…

Buglife
aims to help children realise that although most people don’t think earthworms
are cute or cuddly, they are incredibly important animals. Conservation
Officer, Vicky Kindemba said "earthworms are nature's recyclers; they aerate
the soil and recharge it with nutrients making it rich and healthy, and helping
plants to grow. They really are forgotten heroes of our gardens – working away
unseen underground." Here are some earthworm’s facts from Buglife: there are 26 species
of earthworms native to the UK
and around 6,000 species in the world; it has been estimated that globally
earthworms produce £16 billion worth of topsoil each year.

The importance of earthworms was realised by Charles
Darwin. In 1881, Darwin
(1809-1882) published his last scientific book entitled "The formation of
vegetable mould through the action of worms with observations on their
habits", the result of several decades of detailed observations and
measurements on earthworms and the natural sciences. The work was considered a
"best-seller" at the time, with 3500 copies sold immediately and 8500
in less than 3 years which, at the time, rivalled the sale of his most well
known book "On the origin of species". Despite Darwin's clear demonstrations of the
importance of biological activities (earthworms) in the maintenance of soil fertility,
his book on worms has been mostly neglected by agronomists and soil scientists,
primarily due to the predominant soil fertility and management paradigms of the
19th and 20th centuries.

Earthworms
are key regulators of soil structure and soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics in
many agroecosystems. They are greatly impacted by agricultural management, yet
little is known about how these factors interact to control SOM dynamics (Fonte
et.al. 2009). You can read the abstract summarising Darwin’s book here and around 6000 other records on earthworms in the CAB Abstracts database.


Further reading:

Feller, C., Brown, G.G., Blanchart, E., Deleporte, P., Chernyanskii, S.S. Charles Darwin, earthworms and the natural sciences: various
lessons from past to future. Elsevier Science B.V.

Fonte, S.J.,
Winsome, T., Six, J. (2009).
Earthworm
populations in relation to soil organic matter dynamics and management in California tomato
cropping systems. Applied Soil Ecology,
2009, Vol. 41(2), pp.
206-214.

Suthar, S. (2009)
Earthworm communities a bioindicator of
arable land management practices: A case study in semiarid region of India.
Ecological Indicators, Vol.
9(3)
, pp. 588-594.

 

One thought on “Earthworm Week and Charles Darwin’s worms

  1. handsewn April 22, 2009 / 5:03 pm

    Earthworms are the best. I started making crocheted ones for my kids who are huge fans of earthworms and now have sold 222 on the internet. I’m on a quest to sell one million Worms.

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