Excellent Earthworms Project

Alice Evans (The Royal Parks) and Keiron Derek Brown (FSC BioLinks and Earthworm Society of Britain) tell us about an exciting new project about earthworms in London...

Earthworms and The Royal Parks

The Royal Parks make up around ¼ of the green space in London, covering 5,000 acres composed of lawns, meadows, flowerbeds, woodland and water bodies that all depend on healthy soil to support the amazing wildlife that lives in these habitats. That’s a lot of soil, and a lot of work for earthworms. The Royal Parks want to find out how our management techniques affect earthworm ecology, from the impact of compaction caused by footfall from our 72 million visitors - to the impact of our road closure trials which we hope will help reduce pollution in our parks.

Mission: Invertebrate is a project aiming to enrich wildlife in the Royal Parks, some of the largest and busiest greenspaces in London, by supporting invertebrates, the parks’ most important inhabitants that all other wildlife relies on.

We’ve teamed up with the Mission: Invertebrate project and Earthworm Society of Britain to take a closer look at the impact of various factors on earthworm populations.
 

Excellent Earthworms Project

The Excellent Earthworms Project will explore the impact of footpath erosion, road pollution and soil compaction on earthworm populations. We’re looking for help from volunteers to undertake earthworm soil sampling in the parks and to help us with identifying the specimens back in the lab.

Path Erosion Study

A number of paths within the Central Parks with varying degrees of visible erosion will be investigated.

For each site that we investigate, 3 transects will be sampled.

Each transect will run from beside the path outwards at a right angle to the path, with soil pit samples taken at regular intervals.

Sampling for this study will take place in the central parks on Thursday 2nd September 2021.

Road Pollution Study

Roads that have varying degrees of traffic within Greenwich Park will be investigated.

For each site that we investigate, 3 transects will be sampled.

Each transect will run from beside the road outwards at a right angle to the road, with soil pit samples taken at regular intervals.

Sampling for this study will take place in Greenwich Park on Thursday 9th September 2021.

Tree Protection Study

The use of fences to protect veteran trees from soil compaction will be investigated, by comparing the earthworm populations of fenced and unfenced trees in Richmond Park.

A circular transect around each tree of six soil pits will be sampled.

Sampling for this study will take place in Richmond Park on Thursday 23rd September 2021. 

Sign up as a volunteer for any or all of the sampling days via The Royal Parks website
 

Phase 1 – Surveying the parks

We’re looking for volunteers to help us collect specimens for three studies. This will include undertaking soil pit sampling and collecting any adult earthworms found within the soil pits. Earthworms are only identifiable under a microscope so please note that this will involve killing the specimens that we collect by preserving them in tubes of ethanol. No experience is necessary as full training will be provided on the day and overseen by our earthworm specialist. 

  • Thu 2nd Sep: Central Parks - we will be focusing on path erosion and how this affects earthworm biodiversity.
  • Thu 9th Sep: Greenwich - we will be focusing on sampling around roads, to understand how our road closure trials effects earthworm biodiversity.
  • Thu 23rd Sep: Richmond - we will be focusing on sampling around veteran trees to understand how creating fences to protect the trees from compaction affects earthworm biodiversity.
  • Thu 30th Sep: Location to be confirmed - this sampling day will be confirmed nearer the time based on the progress of previous sampling days, we may need to use this day as a 'contingency'. If none of the previous sites requires a revisit to complete the sampling, we will be focusing on different habitat types within Regents Park, and how earthworm biodiversity varies according to habitat e.g. wildflower meadows, amenity grass, sports pitches or horticultural beds.

Sign up as a volunteer for any or all of the sampling days via The Royal Parks website
 

Phase 2 – Identifying the earthworms

The FSC will be hosting two 1-day Earthworm ID with Microscopes training courses at Bushy Park to train up absolute beginners on earthworm identification. These courses will introduce learners to features used to identify British earthworms using microscopes, identification keys and the tutor's specimen training collection.

  • Mon 18th Oct: Earthworm ID with Microscopes @ FSC London: Bushy Park
  • Tue 19th Oct: Earthworm ID with Microscopes @ FSC London: Bushy Park

 The ID courses will be followed by three 1-day Earthworm Volunteer ID Days where those trained on the training courses will accompany experienced earthworm recorders in the lab to identify the specimens that we collected in phase 1 of the project. 

  • Wed 20th Oct: Earthworm Volunteer ID Day @ FSC London: Bushy Park
  • Thu 21st Oct: Earthworm Volunteer ID Day @ FSC London: Bushy Park
  • Fri 22nd Oct: Earthworm Volunteer ID Day @ FSC London: Bushy Park

Sign up to these courses and volunteer days via the Field Studies Council website
 

Phase 3 - Reporting the results

More info coming soon...