The earthworm, an animal “whose disappearance is as worrying as the melting ice”

Who is the earthworm?

Earthworms, or earthworms, belong to the class Annelida, suborder Lumbricina, and are divided into 13 families, with several thousand known species. There are about a hundred in France, classified according to their depth in the ground.

– Epigea are surface worms, small and thin, recognizable by their reddish color. They only live an average of two years.

– Endogenous live in depth, and are poorly pigmented, pale pink to light gray in color. They build many horizontal galleries.

– Anecics are the best known worms. Their presence is a sign of good soil quality. They dig large vertical galleries connecting the surface to the depths of the earth. They can live up to 8 years on average.

⋙ Scientists publish the first World Atlas of Earthworms

They are found in non-sandy, low-acid, fresh, clayey soils rich in plant debris, in which they dig galleries.

They are recognized by their round and ringed body, some individuals displaying a thicker zone called “ring” or “clitellum”, a distinctive sign of adults.

What is the role of the earthworm?

True friends of the garden, earthworms have a large digestive tract that absorbs then digests organic matter, then rejects it almost ready to be assimilated by plants.

They are capable of mixing up to 30 tons of soil in one hectare, notably allowing the soil to be aerated thanks to their numerous galleries. It also allows water to seep into the ground easily, preventing runoff.

In addition, their droppings are very rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, fertilizers for plants.

⋙ Faced with environmental stress, some plants produce their own aspirin

They also reduce the presence of fungi harmful to the soil, and finally, they ingest and contain the pollution contained in the soil.

In short, they rejuvenate, oxygenate and fertilize the soil, allowing the development of plants.

But danger lurks. Earthworms are indeed increasingly rare, victims of intensive agriculture and pesticides. But soils without earthworms become sterile… and without fertile soils, it becomes difficult for humans to feed themselves.

According to some studies, considered repulsive, they benefit from less protection than animals considered cute. The earthworm is not recognized as an animal by French law.

Essential to the environment, the astrophysicist Hubert Reeves had declared that his “disappearance was considered as disturbing as the melting ice.

⋙ Melting ice: Thwaites, the “glacier of the apocalypse”, hangs by a thread according to researchers

Watch out for flatworms

Platyhelminthe, or flat worm, is also nicknamed “killer worm”. And for good reason ! This invasive species from New Guinea is wreaking havoc in France, including on earthworm populations.

Toxic because it contains tetrodotoxin, and voracious, this flatworm feeds on… earthworms, slugs and snails, and has no predators. There is currently no product to eradicate it either.

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