Soil Biology is Essential for the Landscape to Function – part 1

image: Barrett L. Kays
image: Barrett L. Kays

What is soil biology and why is it important?  Soil is the physical infrastructure for landscapes and ecosystems.  Within the physical infrastructure soil chemistry works in such a close relationship with plant and animal organisms, some say the soil operates as a living biological system.  Soil biology is important because it is a dominant factor in nutrient availability.  Soil contains plants, micro-organisms, and invertebrate and vertebrate organisms which all work together in creating biochemical transformations essential for life.

There are over 4,000 trillion micro-organisms (microbes) such as bacteria, fungi, algae, mold, and protozoa in one acre of soil.  Many of these microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants and other organisms.  All of the microbes are competing for a limited supply of nutrients and carbon (their food source).  Microbes quickly multiply when there is sufficient soil organic carbon.  When the soil organic carbon is limited the microbe population is diminished.   Therefore, if the landscape soil is designed properly, there are trillions of microbes helping it function.  And, if properly used as a stormwater system, all of these microbes have been put to work as a biological system.

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