Earthworms play a key role in the decomposition of organic matter and the mineralisation of nutrients. Thereby they increase plant growth and also the amount of plant residues that are returned to the soil.
This increase in soil carbon as a result of earthworm activity means that carbon dioxide (CO2) is being withdrawn from the atmosphere, mitigating climate change. However, this beneficial effect has a downside: earthworms can also increase greenhouse gas emissions from soils.
Negative impact for climate change
In this thesis I determined the effect of earthworm activity on the balance between carbon input and greenhouse gas emissions in agro-ecosystems. My results suggest that earthworms stimulate greenhouse gas emissions more than they increase soil carbon storage. Although earthworms are beneficial to soil fertility, their presence in agro-ecosystems results in a negative impact for climate change.