Truly the unrecognized heroes of the Fairfax County forest, earthworms spend the daytime underground and come out at night. These nocturnal wanderings help earthworms stay moist (which helps them breathe) and avoid heat and light which can hurt their sensitive skin.
Even though we don't usually see them, earthworms are very important in the cycles of forest health. By eating dead leaves and leaving their droppings in the soil, they recycle the nutrients from old plants into new. Castings, or earthworm droppings, are full of nutrient rich organic material that helps plants grow. Little openings in over 100 segments of each earthworm's body excrete a small, steady stream of nitrogen-rich waste fluid as the worm crawls underground. Earthworms also move throughout the soil bringing nutrients to the surface and providing tunnels for the air and rain to reach the plants' roots.
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