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This content is taken from the Lancaster University's online course, Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Now that you’ve completed this course, I hope that you’ll agree, soils are fascinating and complex. We’ve learned about how soils form and what they’re made of. For me, teaching about these physical aspects of the soil is always interesting because there are so many things people haven’t thought about before. The structure of soils is much more complex than most people think, and the proportion of the soil that consists of water and air is amazing. The formation of soils is such a long process, driven by many different factors, that I often think we should be considering soils as a finite resource, much like we do fossil fuels. Then we looked at life in the soils.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds When we think about high biodiversity, we often think about a rain forest or a grassland filled with flowers. But actually, even in these habitats, where there is a high diversity of plants, insects, and animals, there’s undoubtedly greater biodiversity in the soil. We looked at a range of life in the soil, from the smallest microbes through to invertebrates and plants. There’s no way we can cover everything, so we’re mainly concerned with those organisms that are important for soil function. You will have seen that studying the soil microbial community is incredibly challenging. But as technology advances, methods are becoming more affordable and we’re learning more and more about life in the soil.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds It’s really an area where exciting scientific advances are being made all of the time. We also looked at why soils are so important. And you’ll now have come to appreciate just what a fundamental resource they represent. Almost every aspect of our lives relies on healthy soils, including the acquisition of clean water and food. Despite how much we depend on them, soils are perhaps one of the most undervalued resources. There are so many ways that we are threatening soils, such as compaction, contamination, sealing, and erosion. These local threats are not the only ones we face. And so we’ve looked at how global environmental change is posing a threat to soil, including climate change and air pollution.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds Despite all these threats, we’ve seen how research in soil is starting to give us a greater understanding of these threats, and it’s developing ways to reduce impacts on soil. I really hope that you’ve enjoyed this course and that it has inspired you to want to learn more.


During this course we have learned about the basics of soil science and their environmental context.

This short video summarises the course. Watch it and tell us what you think.

  • What did you find interesting?

  • What shocked you?

  • What surprised you?

  • Are you optimistic about the future of soil, particularly in your region?

Thank you for participating in this course – we hope you found it interesting and will encourage you to find out more.

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This video is from the free online course:

Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet

Lancaster University

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