Ecosystem beneath our feet

Dear Editor,
Soil is a dynamic ecosystem working underneath our feet; and is full of biogeochemical reactions and interactions between several living organisms like soil microorganisms like soil bacteria, actinomycetes, cyanobacteria (blue green algae), soil fungi, viruses, slime moulds, lichens, various soil protozoa and soil arthropods, mites, springtails, root aphids, millipedes, earthworms, nematodes, snails and slugs, potworms, flatworms, rotifers, tardigrades to name only a few. Some of them are plant pests that causes infection and diseases to plants and crops; but a vast number of these organisms are beneficial to the process of soil formation as well as soil conservation. The soil environment is thus a dynamic ecosystem and site of interaction of different protists, micro-, meso-, macro and megafauna that depend on each other for their food and energy supply.
Just like any terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem, soil fauna on the higher trophic level is dependent on the lower one. The soil fauna through their intricate physical activity; supported by helpful geological resources in the soil like different minerals in the soil and though complex chemistry helps in generating rich soil organic matter, creates hydration and aeration channels in the soil layer creating air spaces for different organisms to complete their life cycle in part or full, helping plant roots to travel to longer distances for procuring minerals as well as for reaching the water table easily, helps in biodegradation, bioconversion and soil transformation processes. Hence, any alterations in the soil surface, top layers and soil profile by unscientific agricultural practices can break down the complex food chains and food webs existing in the soil; and make it less productive, changes pH, generate mutant soil fauna and destroy the natural biogeochemical cycles operating in the soil. Therefore soil conservation is an important approach to protect our highly treasured global soil resources. Unless comprehensive steps are taken to protect our soil; then, global agriculture and forestry could face substantial challenges.
Saikat Kumar Basu,