Note: This page on the soil ecosystem was developed from information found in a USDA, Soil Conservation Service (Now, Natural Resources Conservation Service) publication, "Conserving Soil", out of print.
Ecology is the scientific study of the relationships between organisms and their environment. An ecosystem is all of the organisms in a given place in interaction with their nonliving environment.
The soil is a thriving ecosystem of plants and animals which play an important role in the soil. Both plants and animals change the composition and structure in many different ways.
Plant roots get energy to grow from sugars through the photosynthesis process that occurs in it's leaves. They move through the soil with great force wedging their way between soil particles. A root is strong enough to even fracture rock if it grows into a crack. Once in place, soil nutrients and water are absorbed, sometimes from great depths and moved closer to the surface.
The plant uses most of what it has collected by the roots to grow larger and produce seed such a wheat that we use to make bread. The remaining nutrients and as plant roots die are used the following growing season by another plant. Keep in mind, for all of the plant mass you see above ground, there is an equal or greater mass of roots growing beneath the surface.
The soil is teaming with animals. Some are seen like earthworms, ants and burrowing animals. But others, such as bacteria, fungi and nematodes may require a microscope to see the individual members.