Soil Ecology

M. A. Pavao-Zuckerman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Soils are key ecosystem components that provide rooting material for plants and are the habitat for the saprophytic organisms that recycle matter and nutrients through the decomposition process. Soil ecology is concerned with the interactions between organisms in the soil (both microbe and fauna) and between soil organisms and their physical and chemical environments. The heterogeneity of the soil habitat supports a very high diversity of bacteria, fungi, and microscopic and macroscopic soil animals. These organisms are the primary drivers of the decomposition of organic materials, the efflux of carbon dioxide soils, and the cycling of nutrients within soils. The diversity of soil organisms is also seen in its functional characteristics, with organisms influencing ecosystem properties ranging from soil physical characteristics to the rate of nutrient dynamics. Trophic interactions in soil food webs drive much of these ecosystem functions. The opaque nature of soil, difficulty of in situ observation, and the relatively unexplored diversity of soil organisms make direct, explicit links between diversity and function in soils problematic. Confounding this is the highly heterogeneous and complex structure and composition of soils. Modern techniques and conceptual tools are allowing progress to be made in linking the microscopic scales of soil organisms to the broad scales at which ecosystems and the biosphere function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Ecology, Five-Volume Set
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780080454054
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Aggregates
  • Biodiversity
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Decomposition
  • Detritus
  • Fauna
  • Food webs
  • Heterogeneity
  • Hierarchy
  • Microbes
  • Mycorrhizae
  • Nutrient cycles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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