Science was better known as natural history at one time. Peace
indicators (K-selected, that is, those who are the resource converters)
do not have to signal us that everything is OK. These organisms
are often silent and not readily seen. Waste managers (r-selected)
are relatively more visible. They are also mobile and trap the excess
waste resources to carry them to other location(s) where the resource
may be in short supply. Nitrogen is the prime resource of nature
and most of the waste managers(often known as pathogens and pests)
manage the waste of nitrogen. They, however, charge service charges
in terms of organics they eat to fuel this bio-service.
K-selected worms, the unseen earthworking worms (or earthworms,true
to their name), play a role of producing need-based supply of nitrogen,
with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria. The team uses organics
as their food. The nitrogen is produced in the root zone which absorbs
it readily, keeping a low nitrogen status in the soil. The soil,
thus should have a low analysis of nitrogen (to prevent losses and
pollution of the groundwater which is used for drinking)and may
have a high turnover of nitrogen whenever there is a demand from
the plants.We should supply sufficient organics, as a mulch, to
the soil, as a feed for this need-based nitrogen production.
r-selected worms have a role of trapping the waste nitrogen
into their rapidly growing biomass. This is why they breed so fast,
have migratory behavior and have predators who help them transport
the extra nitrogen over a longer distance. Body structure and function,thus,
matches the role. These worms operate in the organic litter and
top layer of soil. They play a role similar to other litter organisms
such as flies, cockroaches, rats, ants, termites and mosquitoes.
We are often impressed by the visible worms. The down-under worms
work silently at places wherever there is a shortage of nitrogen.
These can not operate with unutilized nitrogen in their niche and
hence operate in the root zone of the plants.
The logic of Unseen/Seen also applies to the nonliving world.
Water that has nitrate is harmful for man. Nature signals us this
by smell, turbidity and other parameters. These parameters are the
manifestation of nitrates. Ice that is produced from nitrate contaminated
water shows translucent shade, sort of a warning to us. Salts of
heavy metals are colored, warning us about the pollution. Sulfides
of heavy metals are black and insoluble, thus making a loud appeal
to our eyes. This indicates a double crisis: heavy metal solubility
and production of hydrogen sulfide, both are the result of nitrogen
need to ask the childlike question - why - when we learn physics,chemistry
and biology in the school. Everything is eco-logical and could well
be covered in a single subject of ecology, the science of nature.
Science was better known as natural history at one time.
Dr. Uday Bhawalkar