Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Sean Harvey
Many creatures help revitalize the earth, some through balancing the topsoil of
our plant by enriching it with nutrients and air flow. The mighty earthworm is
our discussion point today. The earthworm is efficient at creating and
maintaining soil that, through growth of food products, can sustain the whole
plant. This industrious creature, by successfully accomplishing its day to day
activities allows the circle of life to continue to flourish.
The earthworm family includes approximately 2,700 different species. All 2,700
varieties offer the same benefits to our earth through maintaining and
stabilizing our topsoil. The most common earthworm found in North America is
the Nightcrawler or Lumbricus Terristris. This busy little earthworm helps the
first and second layer of the topsoil. The three most important items the
earthworm does for our topsoil are:
The earthworm secretes nitrogen.
While the earthworm is moving through the soil, it mixes the secretion with the
A Horizon and B Horizon. This compost, when completely mixed, creates a more
balanced mineral composition.
· Again, through the movement in the topsoil, the earthworm is aerating the soil, and as a byproduct, aerating the soil after a good solid rainstorm
Topsoil is essential to plant growth. Making worms a key component for the
creation of good topsoil. The Earthworm came to North America by European
colonials in simple gardening plants. This was one of the few introductions of
a foreign species to have its advantages out weight its disadvantages.
The Earthworm utilizes its physical structure to help propagate the
decomposition of debris. By having a slim-line body it can borrow itself deep
into the earth, about 6 feet, and not burn much energy. The worm when borrowing
into the earth does not purposely make top soil rich in nitrogen, but it’s a
bi-product of the worm decomposing matter. When a worm ‘eats’ the soil in the
earth is broken down into the nutrients it needs and secretes the minerals it
does not need. One of these minerals it secrets is nitrogen. Nitrogen is very
important to plants and other carbon based life forms. This nitrogen is taken
into the roots and the plants turn into lush green life. Nitrogen from the
plants can be then transformed into the nutrients the plant needs. This plant
now is rich in nitrogen and can be consumed by any herbivore or omnivorous
creature that eats it. The worms also leave other trace minerals to help give
the topsoil enriched minerals.
Worms travel deep into the earth and have been known to average about six feet
into the soil. This crosses the A horizon layer and B horizon layer found
within the ground. When the worm crosses the A horizon and B horizon the ground
mixes its soil and mixes the minerals within the ground together within the two
horizons. This creates a more balanced composition within the ground and helps
plants’ roots group deeper for the same nutrients. This allows the plants roots
to grow in a uniform fashion deep within the topsoil without little interference
from the ground lacking sufficient minerals. With the two inner mixing horizons
the effective topsoil is deeper and allows for plants to become enriched with
minerals wherever their roots may grow.
When an Earthworm borrows itself into the ground it leaves very small tunnels
and allows oxygen to seep into the ground effectively loosening the soil. Loose
soil allows for plants to grow with great ease because it does not take as much
effective energy to penetrate into the ground. These tunnels also allow for
more then just oxygen to penetrate into the ground. When it rains the ground is
very loose and can effectively hold more water within the ground creating a
further moist environment for the worms as they enjoy and more importantly the
plants have more water to tap into.
The worm does not purposely secrete, irrigate, and mix the horizons together for the creation of great topsoil, but it does this in the essence of Geology. This shows all the pieces of the worm’s ecology working together but with an organized chaos of earth’s cycles and how its particular cycle of top soil is benefited from another cycle. Just a few of the Earth’s cycles such as the water cycle, topsoil cycle, and earthworm life cycle shows how each of these are different but help each other in a global cycle of its massive perpetuation of the ‘Earth’ cycle.
In conclusion the Earthworm benefits the A horizon and B horizon greatly by creating a hearty topsoil made of a high Nitrogen concentrate which is great for Carbon based life. The mixing of the two horizons makes thick topsoil and allows for greater root penetration into the ground for the key topsoil ingredients for plant growth. Lastly, the aerating the worms leave in the ground help the oxygen and water reach key parts of the soil to help growth. These three key combinations the worms do in their interaction of the soil allow or great growth. While they are not the purposeful effect the worms are trying to achieve, they also benefit from these benefits as well. They benefit by the moist environment the aeration creates and when the plants grow, they die decompose and create even more food for the worms, creating even better soil for more plants to grow. This shows two earth cycles working together forming a new unique cycle.
Facts about Earthworms
These critters are underground farmers who turn over the soil like a plough.
In just one acre there can be a million or more of them, eating 10 tons of leaves, stems, and dead roots a year and turning over 40 tons of soil in the process.
There are 4,400 different species of worms.
There are 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.
The tunnels created by the worms help plant growth by aerating the soil allowing for better water penetration.
The earthworm lives on average one year.
Worms fertilize the soil with their castings, which contain the recycled nutrients from the debris they eat.
Many earthworms are not native to the United States, most were introduced from Europe.
Earthworms do not have eyes, but are light sensitive.
Sunlight will kill earthworms.
Interesting Facts about Earthworms. PilePro Compost Bins. Composting 201.
Worm Facts. Interesting things to know about worms.
Fun Earth Worm Facts.
Biology 203 Lab. Protostomes.
Common Earthworm. National Geographic. Jason Edwards. Animal.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/earthworm.html