Wildlife

Earthworms Stunted by Pesticide Use

Worms are struggling to cope with the use of pesticides, which a new study reveals alters both the physiology and behaviour of the important soil-aerating creatures.

A Danish-French research team studied earthworms that had been living for generations in soil sprayed with a fungicide.

“They spend a lot of energy on detoxifying, and that comes with a cost,” said researchers Nicolas Givaudan and Claudia Wiegand, whose report was published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry.

And that cost is that they are less successful at reproducing and are much smaller than worms living in organic farming fields.

That means there are often two to three times more earthworms in unsprayed soil than in soil treated with pesticide.

Earthworms are important to the environment because they help in the decomposition of decaying leaves, as well as eat parts of fungus and bacteria.

Their burrowing activity brings air into the soil.

Earthworms living in ground treated with fungicide weigh half as much as those living in untreated fields.

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Wildflower Blooming Expands Under Global Warming

Climate change has stretched the wildflower blooming season in the Rocky Mountains by more than a month, with half the flowers beginning to bloom weeks earlier than before.

But researcher David Inouye of the University of Maryland says that the flowering plants’ response to climate change is complex, with different species responding in unexpected ways.

Inouye began counting flowers in the Rockies in 1974, long before climate change was even on the scientific radar.

He and his students have since amassed an enormous amount of data on wildflower blooming, and say the blooming times are now changing rapidly.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he says that the peak time of wildflowers bursting into bloom has moved up five days per decade during his study.

But he says that as the bloom season lengthens, the plants are not producing more flowers.

The same number of blooms is spread out over more days, so at peak bloom there may be fewer flowers.

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