365 Days of Earthworms

“Worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than most persons would at first suppose”

Charles Darwin (1881) The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Actions of Worms

It’s officially over… 2021 is behind us. As National Recorder for Earthworms it’s my responsibility to process all of the earthworm records submitted to the National Earthworm Recording Scheme each year. In terms of earthworm recording, it’s been both a good and a bad year.

The good news is, that partnerships with research institutions and extracting data from scientific literature have continued to provide the Earthworm Society of Britain (ESB) with exciting new data though our Earthworm Research Records (UK) and Earthworms of Ireland (Rep. of Ireland) datasets – contributing a significant amount of the data received this year (and taking up the majority of my ‘earthworm time’).

The bad news is that records from amateur naturalists (earthworm recorders) have declined since the first 4 years of the National Earthworm Recording Scheme. The bar chart below shows the number of records submitted each year broken down by dataset.

Earthworm Records Submitted By Year (2021) Keiron Derek Brown. Figure created from data held within the Earthworm Society of Britain database on 31st December 2021. (c) Earthworm Society of Britain. 2021. CC BY 4.0

What’s to blame?

The past two years have seen a reduction in the number of training courses and events that the ESB has been able to deliver due to the pandemic-that-shall-not-be-named. This has had an impact on the number of records that the ESB has generated directly and inhibited how many new recorders can be trained up.

However, with many people furloughed and finding a newfound passion for taking walks I’d have hoped that the past two years could have still been productive earthworm recording periods.

Looking back at my own personal records for 2020, I generated a measly 4 earthworm records. 2021 was more productive for me with 134 records – but this is still less than the 231 records that I generated in 2016 during the National Earthworm Recording Scheme’s most productive year.

Sampling for earthworms in Green Park with the Mission: Invertebrate team (c) Dan Asaw. 2021. CCBY 4.0.

So, in addition to running a plethora of earthworm training courses and events during 2022 to encourage existing and new earthworm recorders, I decided that, in true New Year tradition, I should get my own house in order during 2022 and set myself an ambitious New Year resolution…

New Year Resolution 2022: 365 Earthworm Samples

The challenge that I have set myself is a shameless rip-off of a challenge set by my good friend and fellow earthworm recorder, Rich Burkmar, back in 2016: to try and record “an earthworm a day” for the whole of 2022. That year Rich won the coveted “Earthworm Recorder of the Year 2016” accolade and I’m hoping this challenge can improve my earthworm record numbers in the same way it did his.

To stop me taking the easy route and sampling my garden 365 times I have set a few rules to keep the challenge challenging:

  1. 365 new UK earthworm records are to be generated within 2022 by a single earthworm recorder – me!
  2. All specimens must be identified by me and records submitted by 31st December 2022.
  3. No two records can be from the same 6-figure grid square.
  4. More than 1 sample can be taken on a single date – provided they are from different 6-figure grid squares.
  5. Records generated through earthworm training courses/events can’t be counted towards the total – though records gathered journeying to and from these events can!

Sounds easy? A couple of my biggest challenges will be:

  • That I’ll be out of the country for over 4 weeks of 2022 – that’s least 31 daily samples to catch up on. I’ll most likely need to dedicate some weekends to visiting other parts of London to negate the 31 days of sampling that I’ll miss.
  • I live in a very urban area (Harrow), meaning that accessible greenspace is fairly limited (see map below including highlighted grid square showing the grid squares within my local area that have been sampled to date) and finding new records near to where I live will get harder and harder as the year progresses.
Map of Harrow showing grid squares sampled through first 12 sample points of 2022. Leaflet | Elevation and location data by Geonames, VC data by the NBN, Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2018. Screenshot taken from https://www.cucaera.co.uk on 03/01/2022nd highlighted squares added by Keiron Derek Brown.

Results to date

The table below provides a regular update on where I am regarding my progress towards my target of 365 earthworm samples from unique 6-figure grid references during 2022.

  • Date – date of the update.
  • Target Samples – number of sampling points that should have been completed by the date of the update.
  • Samples Taken – number of sampling points where earthworm specimens have been collected from.
  • Submitted Records – number of earthworm species records submitted to iRecord.*
DateTarget SamplesSamples TakenSubmitted records

* ‘Submitted records’ differs from ‘samples taken’ for 2 reasons:
(i) multiple records may be generated from a single sample if several species are found.
(ii) records are not classed as submitted until the specimens have been identified and submitted to iRecord.

Species recorded to date are listed below. Species highlighted in red are listed as uncommon, rare or very rare in Sherlock, E. (2018) Key to the earthworms of the UK and Ireland (2nd edition). London: Field Studies Council and Natural History Museum.

  1. Allolobophora chlorotica
  2. Aporrectodea caliginosa
  3. Aporrectodea icterica
  4. Aporrectodea longa
  5. Aporrectodea rosea
  6. Bimastos rubdius
  7. Dendrobaena attemsi
  8. Dendrobaena hortensis
  9. Dendrobaena veneta
  10. Lumbricus castaneus
  11. Lumbricus festivus
  12. Lumbricus rubellus
  13. Lumbricus terrestris
  14. Octolasion cyaneum
  15. Satchellius mammalis

Published by KeironDerekBrown

A blog about biological recording in the UK from the scheme organiser for the National Earthworm Recording Scheme.

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