Soil organisms: The underfoot universe


Earthworm cast along a transect (© Thünen-Institut/Quentin Schorpp)

How soil organisms regenerate to create a vast diversity, how they interact among each other and with agricultural management and how our research benefits and supports the maintenance of this microcosm of animals, bacteria, fungi and archaea.

Field experiment with soil fauna in the mesocosm (© Thünen-Institut/Friederike Wolfarth)

Soil fertility depends on the complex interaction between many organisms of different sizes and different life traits. One gram of arable soil may be inhabited by about 10 billion bacterial cells and 1 billion archaea -- single-cell organisms which are quite similar to bacteria. Fungi are also present, reaching a biomass of at least the sum of bacteria and archaea biomass

Furthermore, soil is a habitat for a vast number of soil animals like earthworms, collembolans and nematodes. Their interaction within a broad spectrum of scales in time and space controls the environmental conditions of plant growth: soil fertility as a joint service. The more diverse communities are, the more resilient they are against environmental impact. Soil organisms may be used as indicators for environmental impact. Scientists study soil fauna and microorganisms, their interaction and the anthropogenic impact to gain insight into the quality of soils


hits: 6

  1. Wolfarth F, Schrader S, Oldenburg E, Weinert J, Brunotte J (2011) Earthworms promote the reduction of Fusarium biomass and deoxynivalenol content in wheat straw under field conditions. Soil Biol Biochem 43(9):1858-1865, DOI:10.1016/j.soilbio.2011.05.002
  2. Rogasik H, Schrader S, Onasch I, Kiesel J, Gerke HH (2014) Micro-scale dry bulk density variation around earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris L.) burrows based on X-ray computed tomography. Geoderma 213:471-477
  3. Wolfarth F, Schrader S, Oldenburg E, Weinert J (2013) Nematode-collembolan-interaction promotes the degradation of Fusarium biomass and deoxynivalenol according to soil texture. Soil Biol Biochem 57:903-910, DOI:10.1016/j.soilbio.2012.11.001
  4. Capelle C van, Schrader S, Brunotte J (2012) Tillage-induced changes in the functional diversity of soil biota - a review with a focus on German data. Eur J Soil Biol 50:165-181, DOI:10.1016/j.ejsobi.2012.02.005
  5. Fründ HC, Butt K, Capowiez Y, Eisenhauer N, Emmerling N, Ernst G, Potthoff M, Schädler M, Schrader S (2010) Using earthworms as model organisms in the laboratory: Recommendations for experimental implementations. Pedobiologia 53(2):119-125, doi:10.1016/j.pedobi.2009.07.002
  6. Beylich A, Oberholzer H-R, Schrader S, Höper H, Wilke BM (2010) Evaluation of soil compaction effects on soil biota and soil biological processes in soils. Soil Tillage Res 109(2):133-143, DOI:10.1016/j.still.2010.05.010