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Worms ate my planet

29 May 2019 | News Roundup

The National Post, channeling the New York Times’ climate obsession, runs a Times story about how southern European earthworms are invading Canada’s boreal forest and threatening to aerate the soil promoting plant growth. No, wait. Nothing good ever comes of climate. They’re threatening to chomp through the leaf mulch releasing waves of deadly carbon. We’re worm food, folks.

This story is silly for any number of reasons. First, it says the native northern earthworms were mostly wiped out by the last glaciation which, if taken seriously, means cold is bad for life. Second, what about the worms south of the 40th parallel? Why haven’t they been wriggling north for the last 10,000 years? Third, it says “the threat is still so new to boreal forests that scientists don’t yet know how to calculate what the earthworms’ carbon effect will be, or when it will appear.” So it’s all guesswork. Why write the article then? Because someone made a computer model that predicts disaster and that somehow counts as news on a slow day. Fourth, it has the usual strange flaw of implying that the robust, miraculous, dynamic ecosystem of the Earth is so fragile that some worms could ruin everything.

The story also says that where most forests have a mix of mineral and organic soil, the boreal forest has a layer of the latter atop a layer of the former. And the invading worms (or Mr. Dendrobaena octaedra if we’re being formal) eat leaf mulch but don’t burrow. Maybe that’s because mineral soil isn’t worth burrowing into and if things start getting stirred up some other worm will show up. Or some bird will start eating the worms if they proliferate, nature being red in beak as in other appendages. Or more carbon and better aeration and soil decomposition freeing up other nutrients will promote tree growth, absorbing carbon.

Who knows? The one thing that is clear is, whatever is happening or might be going to, it’s either a disastrous result of global warming or a cause of disastrous global warming. Even the lowly worm.

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