There is a multitude of life forms that live in soil and compost. This is especially true under our feet, in the soil. These living organisms are important role in the aeration and drainage of the soil. We need to preserve these organisms and plants and not see these as pests. Earthworms, spiders, and millipedes are only a few examples of the vast number of soil organisms. Once you look what lives in soils, you realize the tremendous diversity of shapes and colors. But what if we take the time to describe all their characteristics: color, size, shape, number of legs, type of wings, lifespan, and climate preferences? All these characteristics, called traits, help us to understand what types of organisms can be found in a particular ecosystem, what they feed on, and how far they can travel. Scientists use this information to understand the different roles of organisms in soils, and to restore degraded soils. Analyzing traits can reveal the importance of soil organisms and the fundamental roles they play for human societies.
The 8 organisms in the image below can be used to model patterns of interdependence. These processes of care in nature allow different organisms to thrive and also to support human well being. Some of these patterns of interdependence are:
• Wood lice eat decomposing leaf litter returning nutrients to the soil.
• Shrews eat insects found in the leaf litter.
• Earthworms feed on compost and soil returning nutrients to the soil.
• Moles eat earthworms. (There are, of course, many other organisms that live in compost).