The surface of the Earth, with the exception of the oceans and polar ice caps, is in large part covered with a marvelously complex layer of material called soil, from which we derive a host of useful products including fiber, fuels, building materials, animal forage, many mineral commodities, natural medicines (including antibiotics), and most of our food supply. Soil is teeming with life and is home for a huge array of living organisms. The vast majority of these living organisms are microbes that are ubiquitous on Earth (Table 20.1). They occur in all soils, salt and fresh water, the harsh climates of the Arctic and Antarctic, adjacent to deep-sea hydrothermal vents associated with spreading zones between tectonic plates, throughout the atmosphere, and deep below the surface of the Earth in oil wells where they have been isolated from the surface environment for millions of years (Staley 2002, p. 13).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)