Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners (Paperback)
Leonardo da Vinci once mused that “we know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot,” an observation that is as apt today as it was five hundred years ago. The biological world under our toes is often unexplored and unappreciated, yet it teems with life. In one square meter of earth, there lives trillions of bacteria, millions of nematodes, hundreds of thousands of mites, thousands of insects and worms, and hundreds of snails and slugs. But because of their location and size, many of these creatures are as unfamiliar and bizarre to us as anything found at the bottom of the ocean.
Lavishly illustrated with nearly three hundred color illustrations and masterfully-rendered black and white drawings throughout, Life in the Soil invites naturalists and gardeners alike to dig in and discover the diverse community of creatures living in the dirt below us. Biologist and acclaimed natural history artist James B. Nardibegins with an introduction to soil ecosystems, revealing the unseen labors of underground organisms maintaining the rich fertility of the earth as they recycle nutrients between the living and mineral worlds. He then introduces readers to a dazzling array of creatures: wolf spiders with glowing red eyes, snails with 120 rows of teeth, and 10,000-year-old fungi, among others. Organized by taxon, Life in the Soil covers everything from slime molds and roundworms to woodlice and dung beetles, as well as vertebrates from salamanders to shrews. The book ultimately explores the crucial role of soil ecosystems in conserving the worlds above and below ground.
A unique and illustrative introduction to the many unheralded creatures that inhabit our soils and shape our environment aboveground, Life in the Soil will inform and enrich the naturalist in all of us.
About the Author
James B. Nardi is a biologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Natural History Survey who gardens with the help of innumerable soil creatures.
“James Nardi’s Life in the Soil is a very worthy and meaningful introduction to the soil biota and their unique ecosystem.Coverage of the living forms is comprehensive, with fine graphics showing the diversity of major taxa that inhabit soils. These illustrations provide a good basis for the in-depth understanding needed if one wishes to use more advanced, complex identification keys to study any living soil groups in more detail. In addition to basic identification values for naturalists and gardeners, teachers at all grade levels also should find this an invaluable resource book for surveying field collections of soil creatures and their ecology. Furthermore, naturalists as well as educators and their students will benefit from the descriptions and illustrations of collection and observation chambers that can be used for live animals to initiate research such as population, behavioral or life history studies. Finally, the techniques for composting provide important information on the functional roles of the decomposer microcommunities of soil biota in the actual compost production. Composting presented here as a partnership between soil organisms and humans provides a vital message regarding waste reduction and recycling. Those who are environmentally inclined should read this book to acquire an understanding of our terrestrial ecosystem and the well being of the soils of the earth.”
— Dan Dindal, editor of the Soil Biology Guide
“This is the book I've been waiting for! Life in the Soil is a clear, definitive guide to the fascinating underground world. James Nardi champions dung beetles and cockroaches alike; he celebrates the intricate relationships between plant roots and microscopic fungi; and he sheds light on the complexities in a pile of rotting leaves. Any gardener who has ever wondered about the mysterious creatures that turn up in a shovelful of dirt should have a copy of this book.”
— Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential and The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms
— Jonathan Beard
“Nardi takes us deep into the engine room of soil production, exploring and describing the myriad organisms—amoebae, fungi, bacteria, arthropods, etc—that dwell there. A strange, revealing and captivating book.”
— Mark Cocker
"If the earth moves you, then this is where you'll get all the best dirt on what lives, what dies and how everything in the soil is connected by an ever-expanding web of life. This is a book that can be read by naturalists and gardeners like a novel as the drama of the soil is churned forth, plowed through and dug into. You'll learn about wolf spiders with glowing red eyes, snails with 120 rows of teeth, and lime molds, mites and roundworms in such a manner that they become allies in the fight to keep our earth and our soil healthy. This is a unique book written by a biologist who makes the case that life itself depends on how well we treat all those millions of creatures right under our soles."
— Marianne Binetti
— Gerry Rising
— ACRES USA: The Voice of Eco-Agriculture
— Adrian Higgins
— Jeff Lowenfels
— Liam Heneghan
— Clive A. Edwards
— Christopher T. Martine
— James Cassidy