If you thought global warming is a ‘can of worms’ you were right – Earthworms found to increase GHG emissions

Bruce. C. submits this odd story from the Dutch Telegraph, which is likely to have some organic farmers is a tizzy. This is a story that was translated from the Dutch newspaper article, so may not be 100% accurate in translation. The paper abstract and introduction follows. – Anthony

Worms guilty of climate problem 

Earthworm

Earthworm (Photo credit: Dodo-Bird)

WAGENINGEN- Forget the whole debate around global warming. Because it is all the fault of the worm.

Organic farming cause more greenhouse gases, but also what can of worms. Right earthworms, which improve soil fertility, the greenhouse gas emissions from soil to speed up. And not such a bit as well. Note that research teams of four different international universities, including those of Wageningen. The study was made public Sunday.

Earthworms increase emissions of carbon dioxide from soil on average by 33% and that of nitrous oxide by 42%. That’s because of the hustle and bustle of the critters, preventing the gases can more easily escape to the atmosphere.

“The new of this study, therefore, is that they show that in the bottoms the earthworms that cycle speed up”, reacts Guido van der Werf, scientist at the free University in Amsterdam. “What the exact implications of this are I cannot say.”

The researchers from Wageningen thinking an important mechanism in global warming on the track.

According to Meindert Naca of the Association for the preservation of Boer and Environment, however, it is a pretty useless research. “It is not looked at the usefulness of worms and only to the adverse consequences that were found in the 57 literature studies in which one has shopped selectively,” he says. “That in the conversion of plant waste and manure in and at the bottom help the worms to promote conversion is right and that this conversion gases is also correct, but that this subserve at the global warming trying in.”

Agricultural lands are by far the largest source of nitrous oxide, especially by yielding large amounts of manure. The researchers want to dive even further into the file. “We have particularly but experiments needed for we know to what extent global verworming leads to global heating”, concludes PhD student Ingrid Lubbers of Wageningen University.

Source website URL reference: http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/21264007/__Wormen_schuldig_aan_klimaatprobleem__.html

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Main points:

  • Earthworms, by burrowing through the soil and making it more porous, make it easier for greenhouse gases in the soil to escape into the atmosphere.
  • Earthworms mix organic plant residues in the soil, which may increase decomposition and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The earthworm gut acts as a microbial incubator, boosting the activity of nitrous oxide-producing microbes.

The paper: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1692.html

Greenhouse-gas emissions from soils increased by earthworms

Ingrid M. Lubbers, Kees Jan van Groenigen, Steven J. Fonte, Johan Six, Lijbert Brussaard & Jan Willem van Groenigen

Abstract

Earthworms play an essential part in determining the greenhouse-gas balance of soils worldwide, and their influence is expected to grow over the next decades. They are thought to stimulate carbon sequestration in soil aggregates, but also to increase emissions of the main greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Hence, it remains highly controversial whether earthworms predominantly affect soils to act as a net source or sink of greenhouse gases. Here, we provide a quantitative review of the overall effect of earthworms on the soil greenhouse-gas balance. Our results suggest that although earthworms are largely beneficial to soil fertility, they increase net soil greenhouse-gas emissions.

Introduction here: http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038/nclimate1692

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59 thoughts on “If you thought global warming is a ‘can of worms’ you were right – Earthworms found to increase GHG emissions

  1. There were no earthworms in North America until the European settlers brought them over in the root balls of their fruit trees. Maybe that explains it.

  2. Or do away with the worms and starve to death. With Al Gore, Obama and the EPA go there?
    OT Ravens win.

  3. Uh-oh.
    Here in Australia they had it in for cattle, but they have PR Consultants, and the output of GHG was found to be half what it was alleged to be. The feral camels don’t have the benefit of PR, but at least the proposal to round them up got knocked back, presumably because of the huge quantities of helicopter/truck/4WD fuel, ammo that would be involved. /sarc

  4. First it was the cattle, then it was the camels and the the dinosaurs and poor old humans have always been in the frame but the humble Earthworms increasing emissions of carbon dioxide from soil on average by 33%.might give them the crown for biggest contribution to the growth of plants to assist us all. I will treat the earthworms in our garden court with a new respect after learning this. As for World temperatures, they seem to be going down now and so that is quite a different story.

  5. Worms are 90% of the land dwelling animal biomass. All other species pale in comparison.

    Each human produces 1/2 ton of CO2 per year simply by breathing. About 1 part in 10 of what is produce by humans burning fossil fuels. From this is can be readily estimated that earthworms produce more CO2 each year that the total human burning of fossil fuels.

    I agree, forget the tax on fossil fuels. Tax the worms. They produce more CO2 each year than the total of all human emissions. Since we know that taxes reduce bad things, a tax on worms would reduce their numbers, and if high enough could eliminate them altogether.

    By eliminating worms we could eliminate one of the main sources of CO2 on the planet. Making the earth a true paradise.

  6. Google and/or Bing doesn’t do too bad with Dutch …..
    Dare ya to try this with Japanese … turns out about as accurate as a climate model … lol

  7. To quote the Bard;

    “The smallest worm will turn being trodden on”

    (Henry VI, part 3)

    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist…

    Maybe an “Earthworm Futures” market is coming up next…..

    Cheers, Kevin.

  8. This is a story that was translated from the Dutch newspaper article, so may not be 100% accurate in translation
    Translation is not too bad. Nothing distorted. A few things come out funny.

  9. So the reason there’s been no warming for 16 years is that the earthworms have been goofin’ off?

  10. I am devasted. I have four worm beds in the back garden, they are thriving – does this make me a GHG Criminal… or am I harbouring criminals? I can hear the sirens now – goodbye world!

  11. Hi Anthony, Thanks for this heads up… but what about human gas emissions? It might be interesting for a scientist/mathematician to overlay: human population growth, liters of flatulent gas produced by each, amount of methane from dwelling sewer-gas-vent systems, and derive yet another statistic about so-called “global warming”. I refer to some simple starting points:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatulence

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewer_gas

    As an airline-pilot buddy of mine says, “the risk to airplane travel would be much lower if we could only do away with those pesky humans in the back of the plane.” Speaking of which, what about all those “human emissions” while traveling at high-altitude??? OK, just havin’ a little fun…

    Thanks… keep up the good work…

  12. But worms make GOOD carbon dioxide, not the evil man-made kind. Heck – they even have EARTH in their name!

    Like KevinK – to quote the Bard:

    “They have made worms’ meat of me…”
    -Mercutio
    Merchant of Venice
    Act 3, Scene 1

  13. Earth worms have been spreading through out America ever since they were brought here by the Europeans. In Minnesota it is illegal to dump the earthworms that were used as fish bait. The population of earthworms in North America is probably reaching a peak despite laws like the one in Minnesota. So global warming should stop.

  14. A number of times I told those that are ‘saving the planet’ from themselves that termites and wetlands create a great deal of methane then attempt to explain how algae creates around 90% of the Oxygen they just laugh at me.

    I don’t know how to talk with these people. My only guess is they believe we are a plague to the earth and believe we need to be eliminated in order for other species to survive.

  15. thisisnotgoodtogo said:
    February 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm
    Global Worming…
    ————————
    Good one!! :)

  16. This is the in the same vein as Dyson’s idea that agriculture, the very act of tilling the soil, may be an underappreciated factor in the atmospheric CO2 increases we are seeing.

  17. crosspatch says:
    February 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm
    “There were no earthworms in North America . . .

    That’s not quite true but in the context of the study referenced it might be. The invasive ones have changed the ecology of those areas where they are now abundant. There are species native to the SE and PNW** of the USA.
    ————–
    **Giant Palouse being one

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_Palouse_earthworm

    Better image

  18. Finally a way for me to offset my carbon footprint without buying carbon credits. Dig up some nightcrawlers, son, we’re going fishing!

  19. So to stop global warming we have to do a global de-worming?
    How long after the de-worming will the de-warming take?

  20. Steve Vandorne says:
    February 3, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    “. . . they just laugh at me.

    That can’t be good! Point them at this link:

    http://www.ecology.com/2011/09/12/important-organism/

    It even has a nice image, namely
    CAPTION:
    ““Phytoplankton are microscopic ocean plants that form the base of ocean ecosystems; they are so abundant that they are visible from space. Here, average chlorophyll from 1998 through 2006 is shown in green and indicates areas of high biological productivity. Courtesy SeaWiFS Project/NASA GSFC and GeoEye, Inc.””

  21. This is brilliant. We need more studies like this to prove the point that these studies are beyond rediculous! I bet they wore straight faces when they published their “findings”! SHEESH!

  22. This is an obvious storyline for GM crop merchants and chemical fertiliser companies.

    ‘Earthworms are bad for the earth! Buy nitrates, buy potassium sulphate, buy chemicals!’

    If earthworms increase carbon dioxide, they also increase plant growth through increasing bioavailability to roots. That should mean that the plants ingest more carbon dioxide to grow more.

    The other thought that comes to mind is that the next round of agri-research funding must link crop research to ‘global warming’ and ‘carbon cycles’.

    I’ll take my chances with more earth worms and suggest that the solution is not banishing earthworms but growing more trees.

  23. Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
    I think I’ll go eat worms!
    Big fat juicy ones,
    Eensie weensy squeensy ones,
    See how they wiggle and squirm!

  24. So we’re now looking at the danger of global worming?

    Back in the 1970’s if you wanted to make money from noise; you’d form a rock band. But since the mid-1980’s, (proxy-)climatology seems to be the land of plenty for those trying to make money from noise.

  25. All those wing flapper/pants wetter types who worship all that is organic and eschew modern agricultural techniques will now have to eat humble worm pie. If they can no longer eat organic food because the worms are producing GHG, they will just have to starve. Boo-hoo.

  26. I don’t see a problem here: what earthworms produce as CO2 is the result of digesting fallen leaves and small stems from organics, which have used CO2 directly from the atmosphere into their structure in the previous growing season(s). That is one part of the natural biological carbon cycle, which shows a net deficit of 1.0 +/- 0.6 GtC over the period 1993–2002. See:

    http://www.bowdoin.edu/~mbattle/papers_posters_and_talks/BenderGBC2005.pdf

    Thus whatever the amount emitted by worms, insects, bacteria and animals (including humans) the total contribution to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere is negative: more sink than source, as part of the carbon cycle is left as more permanent storage in humus, peat and ultimately (brown)coal.

    Worms indeed contribute to the local, near-ground, CO2 levels, which may get to thousands of ppmv. Reason why organic farmers use “mulching”, that is covering the soils inbetween the crops with organic debris: leaves, grass cuts, etc. That is good for moisture regulation and produces more CO2 immediately where the crops grow…

  27. That’s not quite true but in the context of the study referenced it might be. The invasive ones have changed the ecology of those areas where they are now abundant. There are species native to the SE and PNW** of the USA.

    The species that most people recognize these days as the earthworms in their yards are introduced. Yes, there are all sorts of native nematodes but the ones a person would most likely use for fish bait came from Europe. It really did change the ecology of the forests and it actually took a considerable amount of time for them to spread. Well, there were several things that changed the forest ecology of the eastern US, the worms being only one of them (the loss of the chestnut forests being the another major change). The worms have resulted in a much faster breakdown of forest floor leaf litter.

  28. Perhaps earthworms are part of the life of Gaia and are actually beneficial to the nitrogen and carbon cycle.After all they make soil more porous reducing runoff and associated erosion.
    Fragile root systems may derive better nutrition enhancing plant growth and creating a natural carbon sink.
    The warmists and Lovelock followers should be all in favour of organic enhanced farming.

  29. They are doing a great job, the more worms the better. The CO2 released will be immediately available for plant takeup and use as food.
    Another stupid bit of ”research” proving that governments squander our money on useless work.

  30. crosspatch says:

    February 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    There were no earthworms in North America until the European settlers brought them over in the root balls of their fruit trees. Maybe that explains it.

    You couldn’t go fishing with a rod and line then?

  31. from the cartoon strip Back to BC (from memory, date unknown)

    Little earthworm in the ground
    you see no sight, you hear no sound.
    You bore out tunnels underneath
    without the benefit of teeth.
    Without no eye, no arm, no hand,
    we are behooved to understand
    just how with attributes so few –
    they named a planet after you.

  32. So, when I go fishing with a box of nightcrawlers, I’m fighting ‘Climate disruption’? Excellent.

  33. Consensus is building, “Note that research teams of four different international universities, including those of Wageningen. The study was made public Sunday.” And of peer review?

  34. Reblogged this on Conjugate Reflections and commented:
    Consensus is building, “Note that research teams of four different international universities, including those of Wageningen. The study was made public Sunday.” And of peer review?

  35. I confess! I am guilty of encouraging worms in my soil and producing them in my compost bins! I am guilty of Global Worming. How do I expiate my sins?

  36. ferd berple says:
    February 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Worms are 90% of the land dwelling animal biomass. All other species pale in comparison.

    Reference please? I’ve never seen a claim for earthworm biomass anywhere near that high. I have heard claims that termites are the largest single land-dwelling biomass source, but this reference claims it is ants, and by a wide margin. Termites come in second at 445 million tonnes and are prolific methane producers.

  37. The things that certified smart people will publish with a straight face for other certitfied smart people to read!

  38. David J. Ameling says:
    February 3, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Earth worms have been spreading through out America ever since they were brought here by the Europeans. In Minnesota it is illegal to dump the earthworms that were used as fish bait…..
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Here is the info on that:

    http://www.agweb.com/article/The_Dirt_on_Worms_195634/

    And now we even have the great lakes WORM WATCH!!!!! http://www.greatlakeswormwatch.org/

    Wanted!
    Asian Earthworms! Help stop their establishment.

    The best way to deal with invasive species is to stop their introduction in the first place. There are several Asian species of earthworms in the genus “Amynthas” that are knocking on our doorstep and have the potential for very destructive impacts.

    So help the earth, drown a worm.
    Maybe we can convince all the environuts they need to go fishing 24/7/365…. the EPA wants to get rid of the introduced Invasive Asian Carp too.

  39. Steve Vandorne says:
    February 3, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    ….I don’t know how to talk with these people. My only guess is they believe we are a plague to the earth and believe we need to be eliminated in order for other species to survive.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Robert Zubrin explains what we are up against. An excerpt:

    Antihumanism is a belief system which holds that humans are destroyers [whose] activities, aspirations, and numbers must be severely constrained… In the 1970s there was a global cooling trend going on. So the antihumanists said “look, there is global cooling, which is being driven by industry.. Put us in control.” Then in the 1980s the climate began to warm, so they said “look, there is global warming, which is being driven by industry.. Put us in control.” The problem is always different, the solution is always the same [de-industrialization, and:] – put them in control. Its not about weather, it’s about power.

    See the full 12 minute video: http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/339257/robert-zubrin-why-we-need-more-carbon-greg-pollowitz

    Eugenics Record Office Records

    http://www.amphilsoc.org/mole/view?docId=ead/Mss.Ms.Coll.77-ead.xml#d316287e164308268875776

    Do some research on the Eugenics movement.
    Global Warming, Eugenics and the Fabians

    From Yale:

    The Population Bomb: Has It Been Defused?
    Paul Ehrlich still believes that overpopulation imperils the Earth’s future. But the good news is we are approaching a demographic turning point: Birth rates have been falling dramatically, and population is expected to peak later this century — after that, for the first time in modern history, the world’s population should actually start to decline.

    The “population bomb” is creeping back onto the environmental agenda. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Paul Ehrlich wrote his book of that name and the Club of Rome produced computer simulations of a resources crisis in Limits to Growth, population was the number one environmental issue. Only strict birth control could prevent doomsday.

    After the scandals of India’s forced vasectomies and China’s draconian one-child policy, such views became too hot to express in progressive circles. But they didn’t altogether go away, and now more and more people are blaming the “p-word” for climate change and rising oil and food prices.

    “New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears,” warned the Wall Street Journal…

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