Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners

Paperback | October 15, 2007

byJames B. Nardi

not yet rated|write a review

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.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$29.20 online
$32.50 list price (save 10%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25

From the Publisher

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 trillio...

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.

other books by James B. Nardi

In Mouse's Backyard
In Mouse's Backyard

Hardcover|Jul 30 2011

$22.38 online$24.99list price(save 10%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 1.3 inPublished:October 15, 2007Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226568520

ISBN - 13:9780226568522

Look for similar items by category:


Extra Content

Table of Contents

How to Use This Book


A. Introduction
B. How Soil Forms Rocks and Weather
C. Plant Roots and Their Bacterial Partners
D. Plant Roots and Their Bacterial Partners
E. Where Roots Meet Rocks and Minerals
F. Plant Roots and Their Animal Partners
     1.  Life in a Dark Densely Populated World
     2.  Soil Fertility and the Formation of Humus
     3.  The Importance of Nitrogen
     4.  The Contribution of Animals to Soil Structure
     5.  Diggers and Thrillers of Soil
G. How Plants and Animals Affect the Layers of a Soil


A. Microbes
     1.  Eubacteria and Archaebacteria
     2.  Actinomycetes
     3.  Algae
     4.  Fungi
     5.  Chytrids, Hyphochitrids, Oomycetes
     6.  Lichens
     7.  Slime Molds
     8.  Protozoa

Animal Kingdom
B. Invertebrates
     a.  Animals Without Backbones of Jointed Legs
     1.  Flatworms
     2.  Roundworms and Potworms
     3.  Earthworms
     4.  Land Leeches
     5.  Rotifers
     6.  Snails and Slugs
     7.  Tardigrades
     8.  Onychophrans
     b.  Arthropods Other Than Insects
     1.  Mites and Springtails
     2.  Proturans and Diplurans
     3.  Myriapods
     4.  Spiders
     5.  Daddy Longlegs
     6.  Psuedoscorpions
     7.  True Scorpions, Windscorpions, Whipscorpions, and Schizomids
     8.  Microwhipscorpions
     9.  Ricinuleids
     10. Woodlice
     11. Crayfish
     c.  Insects
     1.  Jumping Bristletails and Silverfish
     2.  Earwigs
     3.  Cockroaches
     4.  Camel Crickets and Mole Crickets
     5.  Short-horned Grasshoppers
     6.  Termites
     7.  Thrips
     8.  Big-eyed Bugs and Burrower Bugs
     9. Aphids, Phylloxerans, and Coccoids
     10. Cicadas and Rhipicerid Beetles
     11. Rove Beetles and Ground Beetles
     12. Tiger Beetles
     13. Short-winged Mold Beetles
     14. Featherwing Beetles
     15. Sap Beetles
     16. Antlike Stone Beetles
     17. Minute Fungus Beetles
     18. Ptilodactylid Beetles
     19. Glowworms, Fireflies, and Lighteningbugs
     20. Soldier Beetles
     21. Dung Beetles
     22. Carrion Beetles, Burying Beetles, and Hister Beetles
     23. Wireworms and Clickbeetles
     24. Beetles of Rotten Logs
     25. Scarabs, Weevils, and Their Grubs
     26. Variegated Mud-loving Beetles
     27. Fungus Beetles
     28. Scorpionflies
     29. Antlions
     30. Caterpillars and Moths
     31. March Flies
     32. Midges and Biting Midges
     33. Moth Flies
     34. Snipe Flies
     35. Robber flies
     36. Bee Flies
     37. Long-legged Flies
     38. Picture-winged Flies
     39. Root-maggot Flies
     40. Gall Wasps
     41. Parasitic Wasps
     42. Digger Bees and Velvet Ants
     43. Digger Wasps
     44. Ants
C. Vertebrates
     a.  Vertebrates Other Than Mammals
     1. Salamanders
     2. Toads
     3. Caecilians
     4.  Lizards
     5.  Snakes
     6.  Turtles and Tortoises
     7.  Birds
     b.  Mammals
     1.  Woodchucks
     2.  Badgers
     3.  Prairie Dogs
     4.  Ground Squirrels
     5.  Moles
     6.  Shrews
     7.  Pocket Gophers
     8.  Kangaroo Rats


     1.  Preventing Erosion
     2.  Avoiding Excessive Use of Fertilizers
     3.  Effects of Acid Rain
     4.  Avoiding salt-Encrusted Soils
     5.  Maintaining Soil Structure
     6.  Discouraging Invasion of Soils by Exotic Species
     7.  Composting as an Antidote to Soil Abuse

Collecting and Observing Life of the Soil
Further Reading

Editorial Reviews

"This book fills an important niche missing in the soil science lexicon, that being an academic treatment of soils for a more wide ranging audience than most soil texts. . . . This book could be the missing link for introductory soils courses for nonmajors, fish and wildlife programs, soil biology courses, . . . forestry, natural resources, landscape ecology, horticulture, serious gardeners, and a general audience looking for more than the usual light treatment of soils. . . . I love this book and hope to incorporate it into my soils for non-majors class."