In Northern Illinois, there is an abundance of beautiful native plants: purple coneflower, butterfly weed, black-eyed Susan, switch grass, maple trees and oak trees, just to name a few. The word “biodiversity” implies not just a multitude of plants, but includes all types of living things, like birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects. Because we can see all these things above ground enjoying the sun, air, and rain, it is hard to imagine that the underground world could be as rich and diverse.
However, within the soil there are hundreds of burrowing earthworms, thousands of miles of fungi, millions of insects and billions of bacteria, and other microorganisms busy at work under our feet. Soil-dwelling organisms make up a great deal of biological diversity across the planet, yet these invisible creatures are often overlooked. Many of us often forget the wild world underground. The number of species in the soil and their important ecological functions are so rich that ecologists have called soil the “poor man’s tropical rainforest.”