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Well...there are areas of the wheat and farm belt that haven't had a single
earth worm in over 70s years. This isn't new, it is in fact quite an old
story. Chemical nitrogen fertilizer will burn worms to death. After
destroying all the *mycorrhiza* fungi and other micro organism and reducing
the organic matter to about 1% or less...the worms die off. However...it
should be noted that with the exception of *Eisenia fetida* and the *Lumbricus
terrestris* most earth worms are really an 'invasive species' imported from
Europe and Africa. Overall they are positive and the number of earthworms
in the soil is indicative of soil health, that is, great amounts of organic
matter in the soil. They are like canneries in the coal mine...when one
ceases to see them in a spade of soil, you know you have problems. Worms
represent sort of the final processing of the decomposition of dung and
plant litter on the ground. Sometimes before, sometimes after decomp has
set in. Along with dung beetles there are hundreds of species of worms.

On the other hand, while worms have a symbiotic relationship with most
species of plants in grass lands and on the edge of forests...they are very
detrimental to forests. In some places in the northern plains, Minnesota
and Wisconsin, you can see signs that say "keep your earthworms away!".
Why? Because North American forests evolved without them, at all.
Earthworms actually pull leaves and other forest floor litter into their
dens and can deny the trees the need nutrition. The book is still out on
this and it's being studies but the consensus is slowly developing that
invasive earth worm species are detrimental to forest health.

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