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Why didn’t this 2,000 year old body decompose? - Carolyn Marshall

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It may not appear very lively six feet underground, but a single teaspoon of soil contains more organisms than there are human beings on the planet. From bacteria and algae to fungi and protozoa, soils are home to one quarter of Earth’s biodiversity. And perhaps soil’s most important inhabitants are its microbes. Carolyn Marshall digs into how soil’s invisible helpers support all life on Earth.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Carolyn Marshall
  • Director Thomas Johnson, Ivana Bošnjak
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Animator Ivana Bošnjak, Thomas Johnson
  • Storyboard Artist Ivana Bošnjak
  • Art Director Thomas Johnson
  • Compositor Ivana Bošnjak
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Soil organisms are fascinating and extremely diverse. However, they can be hard to study and much about what roles they are fulfilling in the soil ecosystems are unknown or poorly understood. The Global Biodiversity Atlas is a beautify put together collection of the information we currently know about this fascinating world in the soil. You can download a copy of the Atlas here.

Soil faces many challenges worldwide. Certain agricultural practices cause soil to degrade. Soil is depleted of nutrients and organic material, making it less productive. It is more prone to erosion when it is left bare between crops. Urbanization and development threating soil with soil sealing – covering the soil over with pavement or buildings. However, soil provides many important functions. It produces food, fuel, and fiber but it also plays a role in flood mitigation, regulation of greenhouse gases, and houses a wide variety of biodiversity (even being a source of important antibiotics). For a great visual of the many important functions, check out this graphic created by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. 

Soil contains a large pool of carbon, more than twice as much as in the atmosphere. Adding carbon back into the soil has been proposed as a solution to help mitigate climate change. The Government of France has proposed increasing global carbon stocks by 0.4% to mitigate increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, called the “4 per 1000” initiative and they are expanding to get other governments and organizations on board. Learn more about this initiative here.

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Carolyn Marshall
  • Director Thomas Johnson, Ivana Bošnjak
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Animator Ivana Bošnjak, Thomas Johnson
  • Storyboard Artist Ivana Bošnjak
  • Art Director Thomas Johnson
  • Compositor Ivana Bošnjak
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more