By David Suzuki
As you walk outside, watching birds take flight or a squirrel run up a tree, take a moment to consider the activity beneath your feet. A new study shows more than half the world’s life is in soil — including 90 per cent of fungi, 85 per cent of plants and more than 50 per cent of bacteria. Just a teaspoon of healthy soil can contain up to a billion bacteria and more than a kilometre of fungi, Nature reports.
That makes soil “the singular most biodiverse habitat on Earth,” according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. We often take soil, and the biodiversity it supports, for granted, but it’s critical to understand it.
“Organisms in soil play an outweighed impact on the balance of our planet. Their biodiversity matters because soil life affects climate change feedbacks, global food security, and even human health,” lead researcher Mark Anthony, an ecologist at the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, told the Guardian.
Soil, which makes up the top layer of Earth’s crust, is where we grow almost all our food and it’s second only to the ocean for carbon storage. We should dig deeper into understanding it — especially because topsoil degradation and loss are a growing ecological problem. The United Nations says one-third of global soil has already been affected, mainly by intensive agricultural practices that cause and speed up erosion and runoff, nutrient and organic matter depletion and disruption of natural processes and cycles.