Earthworms for Ecology and Profit: Earthworms and the Ecology

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Add to these the Asian worm species introduced since, often for purposes of fishing bait, and you have a woodland disaster in the making. As Bohlen et al. Arthropods, salamanders, small mammals, and ground-nesting birds are some of the fauna affected. One of the most obvious results: fewer saplings to grow into the replacements for the mature trees now living. The worm-free forest understory is richly layered in nursery-like leaf litter, with ephemeral wildflowers, other herbaceous plants, and seedling trees.

These are being replaced with much reduced leaf litter, bare soil surfaces, fewer plants, and exposed roots of canopy trees. Northern forests have been important, although barely recognized, global carbon sinks.

Earthworms, the agriculturist's friends

Worm-transformed soils are thus both reducing woodland complexity and contributing to the increase of carbon in the atmosphere, adding to global warming. There is, of course, a popular belief that earthworms are our allies in gardens and compost piles. Worms have long been portrayed as beneficial; their actual destructive effects in forests have not been well publicized. Trade Paperback. Condition: Very Good.


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Biology and ecology of earthworms pdf

Used items may not include supplementary materials such as CDs or access codes. May show signs of minor shelf wear and contain limited notes and highlighting. More information about this seller Contact this seller Published by Bookworm Publishing Co. About this Item: Bookworm Publishing Co. Later Edition. ISBN Reading Copy Only. Ex-Library with the usual faults, card pocket, ink stamps, etc.

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Composting Worm Farm

Seller Inventory NEW Relatively few people realize that the "common" earthworms, of which the best known species, but not always the commonest, is called Lumbricus terrestris by biologists, are just as much newcomers to North America as we are. During the last glaciation period even native earthworms were unable to survive in those areas covered with ice and have only been reintroduced often accidentally to these soils by man, the familiar ones since European settlement. In fact, there are many areas in Canada where earthworms are absent and where the productivity of the soils could be substantially increased if they were introduced.

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Earthworms are most numerous in grassland and mull soils, relatively rare in acidic or mor soils, and intermediate and variable in numbers in arable lands. However, other factors such as soil texture, moisture, temperature, and food supply also determine whether a field may have more earthworms than one on a neighbouring farm. Earthworm populations vary not only from one soil to another, but also throughout the year, being most numerous in the spring and early summer. There are many species of earthworms and each generally has different preferences for soil conditions.

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Of the species found in North America only 18 have been found in Canada; only six of these are native to this country. Some species are only found within the top surface layers while others, such as Lumbricus may be able to penetrate several feet to the subsoil horizon. Those that live within the surface layers generally migrate to lower depths during the summer as the soil becomes drier. Cultivation of the soil may enable earthworms to penetrate further into the soil. The accidental introduction of earthworms to North America may have been the best outcome of contact between the early settlers and native peoples.

While the Indians suffered from lack of exposure and immunity to European diseases, the fertility of many North American soils was greatly enhanced through the recycling of organic matter by earthworms. The activity of earthworms is most easily appreciated by comparison with the situation in regions where they are absent: the decomposition of organic matter there is slow, such that layers of litter accumulate on the soil surface and fail to be incorporated into the soil.

More specifically, the activity of earthworms is important to the agriculturist in four respects, in that they:. The burrowing of earthworms improves the physical structure of the soil, creating channels through which plant roots may more easily penetrate the soil.

In addition to increasing soil porosity and aeration, this activity also improves soil drainage and water penetration while eliminating hardpan conditions. Earthworms may also enhance soil structure through the formation of aggregates. Secretions in earthworm intestines cement soil particles together into aggregates which aid in erosion control.

Man, through agricultural practices, such as cultivation, may temporarily improve soil structure, but the earthworm has longer-term effects in maintaining soil tilth. As earthworms burrow through the earth, they consume large quantities of soil and fresh or partially decomposed organic matter from the soil surface, depositing it as fecal matter, or casts, in the lower soil horizons.

ISBN 13: 9780916302153

Similarly, soil from the subsoil horizon is moved by these animals to the upper levels where it is mixed with the surface soil, resulting in a more uniform distribution of plant nutrients. Charles Darwin , the naturalist famous for his ideas on evolution, estimated that Through the ingestion of organic matter earthworms are important to the initial breakdown as well as to subsequent decomposition of organic matter. In fact, earthworms may consume more surface organic matter than all other soil animals together.

This material is eventually excreted as casts, concentrating nutrients and rendering them more water-soluble and available to plants. Researchers have found that worm casts are generally richer in exchangeable calcium, potassium, and phosphorus than the surrounding soil, while earthworms themselves and their excretions are valuable sources of nitrogen.


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By bringing soil nutrients to the upper horizons from the lower subsoil, the earthworms counteract the effects of leaching whereby many nutrients are washed from the root zone and consequently rendered unavailable to plants. As earthworms are a measure of soil fertility, so are they indicators of soil management practices.

Consequently, the use of earthworms to our benefit depends not only upon a knowledge of their activities but also upon an awareness of how our own activities, in particular agricultural practices, may influence their distribution. As previously mentioned, earthworms are generally more numerous in grasslands than in arable land. Evidence indicates, however, that earthworm populations do not decline from mechanical damage during tillage operations, but rather from a reduction in the organic matter content of the soil.

Repeated row cropping will reduce the number of earthworms, while the inclusion of grass or field crops in a rotation and intercropping will counter this effect. Limestone generally increases earthworm populations and, in poor soils, nitrogen fertilizers may also benefit these indirectly. Most other mineral fertilizers have little effect on earthworm numbers, while organic matter such as manure, crop residues, or mulches favour earthworm multiplication by providing them with a source of food.

Many though not all of the insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are used to control agricultural pests are toxic to earthworms and may conflict with the natural biological control of pests.