Okay, we are now moving on to the second trophic level of the soil food web (SFW). The second trophic level of the SFW contains decomposing mutualist, root-feeding nematodes, pathogens, and parasites, but here, we will focus on the decomposing mutualist, a.k.a, nutrient-cyclers of the soil food web, the protozoa!

Protozoa are defined as single-celled microscopic organisms with animal-like behaviors. They release nutrients, that would have otherwise been locked up in bacteria, to plants that can utilize them for growth on their own time. There are different types of protozoa in the soil: flagellates, amoebae, and ciliates. Each serves their own purpose and thrive in different oxygen levels. You’ll usually find flagellates and amoebae in an environment that are moist, abundant in bacteria, and has good air flow.

Flagellates are able to move and capture bacteria with their flagellum and testate amoebae, for example, ( there are many types of amoebae) are able to come out of their shell-like exterior to capture their food, think of them as the snails of the underworld.

Related image
(photo of flagellate from Google)
Size: 5-20um
Size of a single hair strand: 100um



(photo of Testae Amoebae)
Size: 200-500um
Size of a single hair strand: 100um

Ciliates, unlike flagellates and amoebae, prefer anaerobic conditions and are biological indicators that your soils have been waterlogged and anaerobic for awhile which allows pathogenic bacteria to flourish, yikes! They also feed on bacteria and move very fast using their cilia to move throughout the channels of the soil, etc.

stalk cilate

(photo of  stalk ciliate)
size: 25-1000um
Size of a single hair strand: 100um

Well, there you have it, a quick rundown on the different protozoa that exist in the soil. Hope that helped you understand that soil is actually alive and not inert and by creating environments for the beneficial to flourish, we can enjoy the fruits of our labors.

Wanna know more? 

Flagellates: Link
Amoebae: Link
Stalk ciliate: Link



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