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Scientists draw first European earthworm map

"The study is the first step to creating a database of European earthworms," researchers wrote in their new study.

By
Brooks Hays
The first map of European earthworms reveals population distribution and biodiversity density. Photo by SINC
The first map of European earthworms reveals population distribution and biodiversity density. Photo by SINC

VIGO, Spain, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Earthworms are tremendously abundant, but they are too often absent from scientific journals.

Researchers in Europe hope a new map will spark a greater scientific interest in the humble worm and its role in shaping soil-based ecosystems.

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"In 2015, several initiatives were organized with the aim of bringing some justice to this system -- edaphic environments -- that we step on every day and feed on, and that makes it possible for the forests, meadows and crop fields, among others, to function properly," Maria Jesus Iglesias Briones, a researcher at the University of Vigo, told Spain's state news agency SINC.

To get a better sense of the biodiversity and distribution of earthworms across Europe, Briones and her colleagues analyzed earthworm records from 3,838 locations across eight European countries.

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The results, published in the journal Applied Soil Ecology, feature the first European earthworm map -- showcasing the range and densities of common species like Aporrectodea caliginosa and Lumbricus terrestris.

"The study is the first step to creating a database of European earthworms, which needs to be improved on," the study's authors wrote.

Of the surveyed countries, France, Ireland and Germany boasted the most extensive earthworm records, while Spain's data sets left something to be desired.

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Researchers hope their map will encourage scientists in Spain and elsewhere to explore earthworm biodiversity in their home countries.

"We hope that studies such as this one put a greater weight on the need to understand the diversity of these invertebrates that are so important to the proper functioning of soils," concluded Briones.

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