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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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:

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



  • 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

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