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The soil is home to a large proportion of the world's biodiversity. The links between soil organisms and soil functions are observed to be incredibly complex. The interconnectedness and complexity ofthis soil ‘food web’ means any appraisal of soil function must necessarily take into account interactions with the living communities that exist within the soil. We know that soil organisms breakdown organic matter, making nutrients available for uptake by plants and other organisms. The nutrients stored in the bodies of soil organisms prevent nutrient loss by leaching. Microbial exudates act tomaintain soil structure, and earthworms are important in bioturbation. However, we find that we don't understand critical aspects about how these populations function and interact. The discovery ofglomalin in 1995 indicates that we lack the knowledge to correctly answer some of the most basic questions about the biogeochemical cycle in soils. We have much work ahead to gain a betterunderstanding of how soil biological components affect us and the biosphere.
In balanced soil, plants grow in an active and steady environment. The mineral content of the soil and its heartiful structure areimportant for their well-being, but it is the life in the earth that powers its cycles and provides its fertility. Without the activities of soil organisms, organic materials would accumulate and litterthe soil surface, and there would be no food for plants. The soil biota includes:
Megafauna: size range - 20 mm upward, e.g. moles, rabbits, and rodents.
macrofauna: size range - 2 to 20 mm, e.g.woodlice, earthworms, beetles, centipedes, slugs, snails, ants, and harvestmen.
Mesofauna: size range - 100 micrometres to 2 mm, e.g. tardigrades, mites and springtails.
Microfauna and Microflora:size range - 1 to 100 micrometres, e.g. yeasts, bacteria (commonly actinobacteria), fungi, protozoa, roundworms, and rotifers.
Of these, bacteria and fungi play key roles in maintaining a healthy...