Guess who’s responsible for global warming now? That’s right –earthworms. The UK-based Materials Recycling Week reports on a series of studies on the nitrous oxide emissions of worms used in composting projects. We get this bit of good news:
“Worms produce a significant amount of
greenhouse gases. Recent research done by German scientists has found
that worms produced a third of nitrous oxide gases when used for
A third of what? That’s not clear. the threats, however, seems quite serious:
loves them because they think they can do no harm but they contribute
to global warming. People are looking into alternative waste treatments
but we have to make sure that we are not jumping from the frying pan
into the fire."
Oh, that’s a good idea. Let’s get all worked up over the contributions that earthworms may be making to global warming, and set aside any silly notions about getting out of our cars. Yeah, it’s the worms’ fault. Damn those worms for screwing up the environment.
And then there’s the small question of what these studies actually say. There’s this recent study, which
states that "it remains to be determined how important this effect is on N2O fluxes from agricultural systems under realistic conditions" and "Emissions from earthworms themselves were negligible compared to overall soil fluxes."
Then there’s this study, which concludes that "The environmental impact from nitrous oxide emissions appears to be comparable to other waste processing operations."
that’s not to say that we shouldn’t gather data and try to quantify what’s happening that might be causing climate change. It’s just that this is what are earthworms do: they eat decaying organic matter. The worm castings they leave behind could be used to take the place of chemical fertilizers and increase the overall health of the soil, aiding in carbon sequestration. Yes, we may be feeding this decaying organic matter to earthworms and intentionally increasing their population so that they can eat our garbage, but really, is it even remotely possible that their contribution to global warming rivals ours? Could we not consider the activities of earthworms to be part of the general background hum of the earth, and let them go about their business in peace?
Just a thought.