Soil biology

Soil biology

Soil biology is the study of microbial and faunal activity and ecology in soil. These organisms include earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, fungi and bacteria. Soil biology plays a vital role in determining many soil characteristics yet, being a relatively new science, much remains unknown about soil biology and about how the nature of soil is affected.


The soil is home to a large proportion of the world's genetic diversity. The linkages between soil organisms and soil functions are observed to be incredibly complex. The interconnectedness and complexity of this 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 break down 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 to maintain 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 of glomalin 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 better understanding of how soil biological components affect us and the planet they share with us.


Soil biology involves work in the following areas:
*Modelling of biological processes and population dynamics.
*Soil biology, physics and chemistry: occurrence of physicochemical parameters and surface properties on biological processes and population behavior.
*Population biology and molecular ecology: methodological development and contribution to study microbial and faunal populations; diversity and population dynamics; genetic transfers, influence of environmental factors.
*Community ecology and functioning processes: interactions between organisms and mineral or organic compounds; involvement of such interactions in soil pathogenicity; transformation of mineral and organic compounds, cycling of elements; soil structuration

Complementary disciplinary approaches are necessarily utilized which involve molecular biology, genetics, ecophysiology, biogeography, ecology, soil processes, organic matter, nutrient dynamics and landscape ecology.

See also

*Nitrogen cycle
*Soil ecology
*Soil life


* Burges, A., and Raw, F., 1967, Soil Biology: Academic Press
* [ USDA-NRCS - Soil Biology] URL accessed on 2006-04-11


* Alexander, 1977, Introduction to Soil Microbiology, 2nd edition, John Wiley
* Alexander, 1994, Biodegradation and Bioremediation, Academic Press
* Coyne, 1999, Soil Microbiology: An Exploratory Approach, Delmar
* Doran, J.W., D.C. Coleman, D.F. Bezdicek and B.A. Stewart. 1994. Defining soil quality for a sustainable environment. Soil Science Society of America Special Publication Number 35, ASA, Madison Wis.
*Paul, P.A. and F.E. Clark. 1996, Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry, 2nd edition, Academic Press
* Richards, 1987,The Microbiology of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Longman Scientific & Technical
* Sylvia et al., 1998, Principles and Applications of Soil Microbiology, Prentice Hall
* Soil and Water Conservation Society, 2000, Soil Biology Primer.
* Tate, 2000, Soil Microbiology, 2nd edition, John Wiley
* van Elsas et al., 1997, Modern Soil Microbiology, Marcel Dekker
* Wood, 1995, Environmental Soil Biology, 2nd edition, Blackie A & P

External links

* [ Michigan State University - Soil Ecology and Management: Soil Biology]
* [ New South Wales - Soil Biology Basics]
* [ SSSA Division S-3 Soil Biology and Biochemistry]
* [ University of Minnesota - Soil Biology and Soil Management]
* [ Cranfield University Department of Natural Resources] , UK - including the UK National Soil Resources Institute [ NSRI]
* [] A free schools-age educational site, featuring much on soil biology and teaching about soil and its importance.

* [ Dalhousie Soil Ecology Portal]

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