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What do worms do?

Mary Savin, associate professor of crop, soil and environmental sciences in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and the University of Arkansas System’s Division of Agriculture replies:

Worms are the ecosystem engineers of the underworld. They are known as a keystone species, because they are extremely important to the ecosystems in which they live. They inhabit the soil and in leaf litter found on top of the soil. They consume plant matter, soil, protozoa, fungi and other things that live underground. In addition to “tilling” soil and moving it around, worms also build structure into soil ecosystems. Their activity increases carbon storage in the long run. They affect the biology, chemistry and physics of their environment.

This strong effect worms have on their environment is not always a desired one. In forested ecosystems of the north, worms died out during the last ice age. Now exotic species introduced by plants and bait are changing the structure and dynamics of these forests.

For good or bad, these underground tubular creatures have a large impact on our environment.

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