What is it about?

A fundamental question in biology is how many species exist. We quantified how many species live on Earth and for the first time, the proportion of biodiversity that lives in soil. We conducted an extensive literature review and data analysis to show that 59% (plus or minus 15%) of species live in soil. This makes soil the singular most biodiverse habitat on earth.

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Why is it important?

We cannot effectively conserve or restore biodiversity if we do not know where to look. Earth is facing another wave of mass extinctions, and currently very few resources flow towards efforts to protect and restore degraded soils. Our quantitative estimate of soil biodiversity can be used by scientists and policy-makers to more effectively advocate for soil biodiversity.


Few people consider life in soil because it is hidden from our eyes. I hope this article paints a picture for the importance of this often neglected life. We rely on soil biodiversity to grow food and fiber, and these organisms play massive roles in shaping our earth system. Without soil biodiversity, it is difficult to imagine a sustainable and prosperous future.

Mark Anthony
Universitat Wien

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Enumerating soil biodiversity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2304663120.
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