Soil Science

The Soil Food Web

In his graceful work Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners, James B. Nardi attempts not merely to catalogue but to describe just a few “Members of the Soil Community,” as he calls them. Under “Microbes,” he lists eight categories: Eubacteria and Archaebacteria; Actinomycetes; Algae; Fungi; Chytrids, Hyphochytrids, Oomycetes; Lichens; Slime Molds; and Protozoa.

The chapter “Invertebrates” list 44 separate creatures. The names alone are fascinating: “Scarabs, Weevils, and Their Grubs,” “Carrion Beetles, Burying Beetles, and Hister Beetles,” “Aphids, Phylloxerans, and Coccoids,” “Jumping Bristletails and Silverfish,” “Big-eyed Bugs and Burrower Bugs,” not to mention Pseudoscorpions, Termites, Thrips, Woodlice, Cockroaches, Earwigs, at least fourteen different kinds of beetles, Ants, Velvet Ants, and Ant Lions, and many, many more.

Soil Food WebSource: “Soil Biology: The Soil Food Web” USDA Nat’l Resources Conservation Service

Each of these creatures plays its part in the soil food web. All are nourished at the most basic level by organic matter in the soil.

Feeding that complex world of creatures is one of the most important contributions that compost makes to soil. Yet it is only one of many.