Nature organisation celebrates the earthworm

The Swiss nature protection organisation Pro Natura has chosen the earthworm as the animal of the year for 2011.

This content was published on January 4, 2011 - 13:09 and agencies

The particular species of worm is lumbricus terrestris, the largest naturally occurring species of earthworm in Europe, known by different names, including the common earthworm, the nightcrawler or the dew worm.

Pro Natura said in a press release on Tuesday that it wanted to draw attention to the dangers threatening the soil, which is a vital but limited resource.

“The site of the worm’s activities is fast disappearing. Every second almost one square metre of soil is lost under new homes, streets, car parks or industrial buildings,” it says.

Switzerland has about 40 different kinds of earthworms with different habitats, the release explains.

Lumbricus terrestris takes dead organic material from the surface into its tunnels which can be up to three metres deep. The tunnel system enables rain to drain quickly and aerates the soil. Worms also produce valuable humus.

They are also an important source of protein for a range of birds and animals, including moles, hedgehogs and frogs.

The statement says that the worm is so important, both alive and dead, that it can be regarded more or less as the “backbone of intact ecosystems”

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