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Desert Diary
Culture/Easy Life


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Ecologists are beginning to pay a little more attention to how organisms change their ecological niches. Ecological models have tended to neglect this in the past, but it may have far-reaching ecological and evolutionary implications. Now the importance of some things, like the production of oxygen by cyanobacteria having produced the atmosphere that sustains us or beaver dams strongly affecting the local habitat, have long been recognized. But perhaps such things as the effect of earthworms living in a place have not been strongly enough investigated.

What's this about earthworms? Well; if you're an earthworm, you don't really want to pioneer into a brand new, raw area. However, each generation of earthworms tends to improve the habitat for subsequent generations. They chemically alter the soil by such things as removal of calcium carbonate, they aerate the soil, they deposit organic feces and mucus, and they move surface organics down into the soil. By so doing, they are constructing a more ideal ecological niche. Like those generations who follow human pioneers, life eventually gets easier.
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Jones, Dan. 2005. Personal effects. Nature 438:14-16.