The Dirt on Dirt
Dirt is dirt, right? Clumps, clods, crusts, it doesn’t really matter. It just sort of exists and there isn’t much to get excited about. Well, stick with us, and you’ll find that dirt is deceiving. It hides a lot more than most of us would ever think. We’ll give you the dirt on dirt.
All right, let’s clear up one thing about dirt: we like to call it soil. Soil is one of the most fundamental and basic of our resources -- as much so as water and air. We need healthy soil to grow food for humans and other animals, and products that we use on a daily basis. Without healthy soil the landscape would be barren. In order to properly manage the public lands the Bureau of Land Management is entrusted with, we must understand soil processes and how they contribute to the health of our rangelands. The rangeland health standards and guidelines, developed by the Bureau of Land Management for each of the Western States, are closely linked to soil health: physical, chemical, and biological.
Soil is filled with life. Whole communities, some of them very complex and with distinct functions, are literally right under our feet. In fact, the majority of rangeland ecosystem diversity occurs below-ground and up to 90 percent of the total productivity of rangelands occurs in the soil. Think of that shovel full of soil as hiding a thriving, dynamic, and very busy community, with different organisms filling important roles to make the whole thing work.
Did you know that the oldest fossil of a living land creature on earth is a soil organism about a billion years old? So you can see soil biological communities have been busy for a long time. Yet, we’ve only recently started to understand how they work.
The work these biological communities do is important. They fertilize the soil, breaking down dead organisms and releasing nutrients for use by living plants. They’re the unsung, unheralded and unrecognized heroes of the rangeland ecosystem. Some of the organisms that make up these communities are microscopic. Others are easy to see with the naked eye. Whether you can see them or not, all of them are vital to ecosystem health. The maintenance of viable soil biological communities helps ensure long-term rangeland sustainability, clean water, and clean air.
Still, stuff in soil are the heroes of the rangeland? Isn’t that a stretch? Not at all. Allow us to introduce you to soil biological communities and show you how they fit into the big picture!
Once you have viewed our site, if you want to know more about soils and soil biological communities talk to a Bureau of Land Management soil scientist. They are trained to understand the complex workings of soils and how the health of the soils on our public lands can be maintained.
So come with us to discover another world; the world of soil biological communities.