The physical properties of the soil are the production of continued interactions between soil biota and their abiotic milieu. Water, the "universal solvent," exerts a strong influence on the biota because many of the biota are adapted to life in a saturated atmosphere. The interplay between liquid and gaseous phases of water, in turn, is largely determined by pore size. The arrangement of particles in soils (the poro-sphere) is an important determinant for the ecology of the soil microbes (Archaea, bacteria, fungi) and fauna.

Soil formation—the product of climate, organisms, parent material, and topography, over time—leads to various soil types. Profile development and soil texture are the product of interactions of these factors.

The capabilities for nutrient retention, important for primary producers in all soils, are affected by both mineral content and soil organic matter, with organic matter usually having the higher number of exchange sites. The aggregate structure of soils is biologically mediated in many soil types. Soils play major roles in both recycling matter and nutrients, as well as being important sources and sinks of global greenhouse gases. It is apparent that soil ecology is being considered much more centrally in ecological studies and in ecosystem management as well.

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