Global earthworm biodiversity patterns influenced by climate

October 24, 2019

Earthworm communities in soils worldwide - and the critical ecosystem functions they provide - could be substantially impacted by continued climate change, according to a new report that evaluated data from nearly 7,000 sampled sites in 57 countries across the globe. This could result in cascading effects throughout terrestrial ecosystems in ways that are yet unclear. Earthworms are a highly diverse collection of organisms abundant in soils spanning the globe. While often unseen, their labor can have a transformative impact on their soil environments; as earthworms tunnel and eat their way through their subterranean domain, they perform vital functions like soil stabilization, organic decomposition and nutrient cycling throughout ecosystems. However, despite the critical role pf these "ecosystem engineers," little is known about global earthworm diversity and distribution, or the threats they face. Understanding these global patterns is important in predicting how changes in earthworm communities, due to climate change, for example, could alter the key ecosystem functions and services they provide. Helen Phillips and colleagues - an international team of 141 researchers from 35 countries worldwide - compiled a comprehensive dataset of earthworm communities to map global patterns in diversity and abundance, evaluate the environmental drivers that shape earthworm biodiversity, and model local earthworm communities. Their results show that climatic variables, specifically precipitation and temperature, are the most important predictors of earthworm biodiversity at global scales. Unlike many plant and animal species, where biodiversity peaks in the tropical lower latitudes, Phillips et al. discovered that earthworm species richness and abundance were typically greatest in the mid-latitudes. The results underscore that earthworm distributions are highly sensitive to climate. However, it remains unclear how earthworm communities will respond to ongoing climate change or what impacts to them might mean for the overall functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, writes Noah Fierer in a related Perspective.
-end-


American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.