The importance of soil organisms in regulating the global carbon cycle has been highlighted as researchers call for greater funding in promoting soil management.
The new paper, published on Thursday (22 August) in the journal Science, reveals the importance of soil communities.
It calls for more support for the agricultural sector in their efforts to promote soil health, as holistic management of soils can 'drastically enhance' carbon storage and biodiversity.
Soil stores the largest amount of carbon on land, which is regulated by a highly complex community of organisms that governing the biochemistry of the planet.
Management of soil is seen as among the most effective tools to combat biodiversity loss and climate change.
However, very little is understood about global soil patterns and animals. Over 90% of soil species are yet to be characterised, the paper says.
Martin Lines, chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said it is 'frightening' to see a lack of funding to support farmers with soil restoration.
“Soils are the foundation of all farming and when managed effectively they bring a multitude of benefits.
“Healthy soil communities sustain extreme weather events better, reduce the need for fertilisers and harmful chemicals, increase yields, and can capture more carbon from the atmosphere.
“New research, investment and policies focusing on soil health are critical if we are to feed future generations, improve our environment and avoid climate breakdown,” Mr Lines said.
Professor Tom Crowther, lead author of the study, said the effective management of soil at a global scale is among humanity's 'most powerful weapons' in the fight against climate change.
“Just as differences between forests and grasslands can improve our understanding of ecosystems, major differences in soil organisms can drive massive differences in carbon storage across the globe.
“It is crucial that we expand our knowledge of below-ground soil communities in order to understand and address climate change.”
Researchers call for more government funding to fill existing gaps in knowledge of soil communities and their dynamics under future climate change.