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UK public invited to dance for worms to help assess soil health
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UK public invited to dance for worms to help assess soil health

Dancing for worms may seem an odd pursuit, but an environment charity is calling for people across the UK to charm the creatures from the depths in order to count them.

The Soil Association is trying to get a nationwide picture of worm abundance, to track their decline and see where they need the most help.

Across May, the charity is asking people to dance on the soil, soak the earth with water or use the vibrations of a garden fork to draw worms up.

Using the data collected, specialists will create a worm map of the UK to show where the healthiest and most biodiverse soil is. Soil that is full of worms is an indicator that it is healthy.

Worms are vital for the soil; they produce a sticky mucus that binds it together, and this helps to alleviate flooding. Soil with worms is up to 90% more effective at soaking up water.

However, due to pesticides, excessive draining and the use of inorganic fertilisers, the worm population appears to have shrunk. A recent study found that earthworm populations had declined by a third over the past 25 years.

The Soil Association’s head of worms, Alex Burton, said: “It might sound wacky but dancing on the bare earth can help with science. Worm charming is fun and a little surreal, but scientists and farmers use worm counts to understand soil health. We depend on soils for 95% of our food production, and they hold more carbon than the atmosphere, so it is crucial for us to know what’s going on under the ground and worms help to tell us that.

“The data we get for the worm map will help us build a better understanding of the health of soils in gardens, allotments and green spaces across the UK. This will show where they need help to restore their numbers. Worms are in our news, films and our gardens, where children love uncovering them. We’re calling for people to become citizen scientists for our valuable pals, and if they don’t find as many as they were expecting, we have plenty of advice to help them improve the soil.”

People in a field charming wormsView image in fullscreen

The charity is working with the Falmouth worm charming championships, which will be handing out awards for the most worms charmed and the most creative ways of seducing them from the deep.

It can take as little as half an hour to find the worms and only requires a little piece of land, so the work can take place in gardens, farms or local parks. People interested in taking part can download the Worm Hunt Guide and get charming.

Source: theguardian.com