Roles of soil organisms

What do soil organisms do?

There are three main roles that soil organisms (both invertebrate animals and microbes) perform in soil.

Soil organisms clear away and degrade organic debris such as dead plants, animals and dung and use it as a source of food and nutrients, and in the process release chemical elements (nutrients) into the soil solution so that living plants may re-use them. This process sustains soil chemical fertility. But soil organisms are also responsible for soil physical fertility as well. They help the formation of good soil structure.

In addition, soil organisms degrade chemicals and pollutants that enter soil. Also, some soil organisms live in mutually beneficial relationships with plants, enhancing the plant’s nutrition by increasing the nitrogen uptake from the atmosphere (Rhizobium) or phosphorus uptake from the soil by soil (mycorrhizae).