Review Article | Published:

Greenhouse-gas emissions from soils increased by earthworms

Nature Climate Change volume 3, pages 187194 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

Earthworms play an essential part in determining the greenhouse-gas balance of soils worldwide, and their influence is expected to grow over the next decades. They are thought to stimulate carbon sequestration in soil aggregates, but also to increase emissions of the main greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Hence, it remains highly controversial whether earthworms predominantly affect soils to act as a net source or sink of greenhouse gases. Here, we provide a quantitative review of the overall effect of earthworms on the soil greenhouse-gas balance. Our results suggest that although earthworms are largely beneficial to soil fertility, they increase net soil greenhouse-gas emissions.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by a personal VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research/Earth and Life Sciences (NWO-ALW) to Jan Willem van Groenigen. We thank Olaf Butenschoen and Bruce A. Snyder for providing standard deviations of their published data for our meta-analysis. We are grateful to Gerlinde De Deyn for giving helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Soil Quality, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700AA Wageningen, the Netherlands

    • Ingrid M. Lubbers
    • , Lijbert Brussaard
    •  & Jan Willem van Groenigen
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, USA

    • Kees Jan van Groenigen
  3. Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Program (Latin American and Caribbean Region) International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Unidad Suelos, Apartado Aereo 6713, Cali, Colombia

    • Steven J. Fonte
  4. Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA

    • Johan Six

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Contributions

IML and JWVG conceived and designed the study, with suggestions and input from SJF and JS; IML extracted the data from the literature and constructed the database; IML and KJVG performed the statistical analysis; IML, JWVG, KJVG, SJF, JS and LB interpreted and discussed the results; IML, JWVG and KJVG wrote the paper, with substantial contributions from all co-authors; JWVG had the overall supervision of the project.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ingrid M. Lubbers.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1692

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