Diversity of Soil Organisms

Soils are a highly diverse habitat and harbor such high levels of biodiversity that they are often referred to as 'the poor person's rainforest'. Microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and cyanobacteria are the most numerous and diverse taxonomic groups in the soil. There are also many species of animals that live in the soil, including single-celled amoebae, free-living and parasitic nematode worms, Acari, oligochetes, and insects. In addition to these 'permanent' and 'periodic' soil residents, animals can also be 'temporary' or 'transient' residents of soil as life cycle stages may be completed below ground (i.e., egg and larval stages of Diptera) or behaviors may drive organisms below ground (i.e., nesting of many small birds, reptiles, and mammals). Plant roots are also important biotic components of soil that both influence soil physical structure and contribute organic detritus to soil food webs.

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