NEMATODES – Soil Makers

They’re among the most important and numerous creatures in the world, and yet most of us humans have never even heard of them. Nematodes are worms which have long stood — or perhaps we should say burrowed — in the shadow of their fellow soil dweller, the earthworm. But nematodes have a profound effect on the very fabric of our planet. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“Actually, I think most of us are unaware of the fact that there are nematodes in the soil to begin with.”

Dixon Despommier is a Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at Columbia University’s Medical School.

“It’s been said by many biologists that there are so many nematodes that live in soil, for instance, that if you took all the elements of soil except nematodes, that the Earth would still look like the planet Earth from outer space, as seen through the eyes of an astronaut. So this gives us a hint as to the fact that nematodes are very important in terms of soil maintenance. And, in fact, nematodes make soil. And soil is made from the breakdown of organic materials. Particularly in the Northeast, now in Fall, leaves falling onto the soil begin the rotting process. Fungi take over that job first, and other microbes, but eventually it’s the nematodes that reduces the particles of leaves to what we would ordinarily call soil…If you took all the nematodes away from the Earth, the earth would fall apart, because it would have no substructure to the soil.”

If you have a question or comment about this or any of the other programs in our series, we’d like to hear from you. Our email address is pulse@igc.org. That’s pulse@igc.org.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

NEMATODES - Soil Makers

Nematodes are the hard working worms near the base of our planet’s food chain.
Air Date:10/15/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

They're among the most important and numerous creatures in the world, and yet most of us humans have never even heard of them. Nematodes are worms which have long stood -- or perhaps we should say burrowed -- in the shadow of their fellow soil dweller, the earthworm. But nematodes have a profound effect on the very fabric of our planet. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"Actually, I think most of us are unaware of the fact that there are nematodes in the soil to begin with."

Dixon Despommier is a Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at Columbia University's Medical School.

"It's been said by many biologists that there are so many nematodes that live in soil, for instance, that if you took all the elements of soil except nematodes, that the Earth would still look like the planet Earth from outer space, as seen through the eyes of an astronaut. So this gives us a hint as to the fact that nematodes are very important in terms of soil maintenance. And, in fact, nematodes make soil. And soil is made from the breakdown of organic materials. Particularly in the Northeast, now in Fall, leaves falling onto the soil begin the rotting process. Fungi take over that job first, and other microbes, but eventually it's the nematodes that reduces the particles of leaves to what we would ordinarily call soil...If you took all the nematodes away from the Earth, the earth would fall apart, because it would have no substructure to the soil."

If you have a question or comment about this or any of the other programs in our series, we'd like to hear from you. Our email address is pulse@igc.org. That's pulse@igc.org.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.