What Living Things Are In Healthy Soil?

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Soil biologists refer to the ecosystem beneath the ground as a "food web" rather than a "food chain" because many of the relationships between organisms in the soil are mutually beneficial.

So what's living in healthy soil? Earthworms are often present — over a million per acre, at least in some areas. Also, the arthropods: Mites, ants, spiders, millipedes, scorpions, beetles, sowbugs, springtails. Some of the mites and springtails are so small you can't see them with the naked eye. Arthropods, says Amy Stewart in her book, The Earth Moved, are known as "shredders" because they break down pieces of bark, fallen leaves, and other plant and animal material. Arthropods, like earthworms, break down organic material create burrows in the soil. Arthropods also produce "castings" like earthworms, full of nutrients plants can use.

"This dynamic living ecosystem," says Marin Soil Solutions, "is incredibly diverse and made up of organisms that range in size from one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa, to more complex nematodes and arthropods, to earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants...One teaspoon of healthy soil contains millions of beneficial soil microorganisms that include thousands of species of bacteria and fungi. Beneficial soil organisms act like brokers and make nutrients available to plants, help reduce disease and retain nutrients in the soil."

One handful of healthy soil contains more living organisms than there are people on earth.

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