Earthworms increase greenhouse gas emissions, study says


Turns out, we’re not the only ones contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

According to a recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, “earthworms play an essential part in determining the worldwide greenhouse-gas balance of soils, and their influence is expected to grow over the next decades.”

To determine earthworms’ role in global greenhouse gas emissions, researchers from Europe, the United States, and Columbia compiled the results of nearly 60 studies.¬†While it was once suspected that earthworms stimulate carbon sequestration in the soil, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the team found that was not the case. Instead, they determined that the worms’ presence in soil increased its nitrous oxide emissions by 42 percent and its carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent. Not only this, but researchers say the growing use of organic fertilizers and move away from conventional land cultivation has the potential to boost numbers in the future.

Earthworms are able to increase the emissions in a number of different ways, one of which comes from burrowing through the soil, making it easier for greenhouse gases in the soil to escape into the atmosphere.

But despite these findings, author Ingrid Lubbers told the University of California, Davis: “Our literature search also pointed out a large gap in the published studies,” adding, “We need more experiments that include growing plants, as well as more long-term studies and more field studies before we can decide to what extent global worming leads to global warming.”