An unknown world of life lurks beneath our feet, and we should be thankful that it does. A research report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says that approximately 59% of all living species on Earth live in the soil. Because there are so many organisms living there and they are generally out of sight, scientists don’t know how many species exist in the world of life beneath the soil.
According to the report by Diana Wall of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, soil organisms support life above the soil in many ways. They make it possible for us to grow food, and they break down organic waste. We often think of earthworms, but there are also many smaller worm species. We seldom see various insects that spend their lives in the soil. However, we do see insects that live much of their lives under the ground as well as above. Those include ants, springtails, woodlice, and millipedes. We often think of some animals that live in the soil as pests, such as termites and nematodes. However, they serve the purpose of breaking down organic materials, helping to keep the world from filling up with waste.
Plants also live in the world of life beneath the soil. For example, fungi do not use photosynthesis like green plants, so they can survive in the darkness. Subterranean life forms include the least familiar amphibians, the caecilians, whose name means “blind ones.” Naked mole-rats live underground, and many other mammals spend at least part of their lives in subterranean darkness.
According to the report in PNAS, “soil is the most biodiverse singular habitat.” We don’t often think of the world of life beneath the soil, but we should thank God that He thought of it. Subterranean life makes it possible for life above ground to thrive and prosper. We see this incredible web of life as evidence of design.
— Roland Earnst © 2023