Soil—the Foundation of Terrestrial Ecosystems
Healthy soil is the foundation of any terrestrial ecosystem. It is where the first link in the food chain gets its nutrients from. Healthy soils are infused with a cocktail of organic carbon from fecal matter and decomposed plants or animals, oxygen, water, and minerals essential for life. These elements provide the perfect habitat for the first level of the food chain. Bacteria and fungi live in the soil as well. Their role will be explained later in the lesson.
Soils are the source of nutrients and energy for the living part of ecosystems. When plants establish in soil they change its composition by adding more organic carbon and nutrients during photosynthesis. This increase in nutritious resources allows for more plants to establish in the soil, and in turn more animals can inhabit the area because there are enough resources for them.
Healthy soils have a huge impact on the ecosystem’s ability to store energy, water, and nutrients; the three basic resources that support life. The interactions between microorganisms (living things you can’t see by eye) and macroorganisms (living things you can see) move these resources into various forms to support a variety of different organisms.
Animals don’t all share the same diet; plants don’t have mouths to eat food like we do. So having resources in different forms supports a more diverse ecosystem.
Now that we have healthy soil, what happens next?