With snow piled inches deep, the trees ragged and leafless, and scurrying animals forlornly looking for morsels, it is unsurprising that our thoughts turn to spring and its promise of rebirth. Apply a spade or even the heel of your boot to the dirt and confirm that of all the dead wintry things in the world, the soil seems to be the deadest of them all.
In fact, many share the common misconception that dirt is always dead (and not just in winter!). People often think that while soil may contain life to be sure, the soil itself, that matrix that supports roots and provides nutrients for plants, is an inert or dead substance.
On the contrary, however, living things are essential to the proper working of the soil and in the absence of living things soil would not be soil at all.
Living things are such an important part of the soil that in our part of the world, the so-called temperate ecological zone, the greatest species diversity occurs in the upper centimeters of the soil. In fact, because they are so rich in species soil ecologist PS Giller has named temperate soils the “poor man’s tropical rain forest.”