The Role of Soils


There are seven general roles that soils play:


hand holding grass
Grass roots live in the soil, and help it clump together.


  • Soils serve as media for growth of all kinds of plants.
  • Soils modify the atmosphere by emitting and absorbing gases (carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and the like) and dust.


plant biofilm
This is a closeup of the bacterial life that can grow on a plant root, called a biofilm.
  • Soils provide habitat for animals that live in the soil (such as groundhogs and mice) to organisms(such as bacteria and fungi), that account for most of the living things on Earth.
  • Soils absorb, hold, release, alter, and purify most of the water in terrestrial systems.
  • Soils process recycled nutrients, including carbon, so that living things can use them over and over again.


ArchaeologistArchaeologists need to understand the soil so they know the likely places for human life. They also literally dig up the past.
  • Soils serve as engineering media for construction of foundations, roadbeds, dams and buildings, and preserve or destroy artifacts of human endeavors.
  • Soils act as a living filter to clean water before it moves into an aquifer.

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