complex network of interconnected food chains within the soil ecosystem.

soil food web (Wikipedia)
An example of a topological food web (image courtesy of USDA)

The soil food web is the community of organisms living all or part of their lives in the soil. It describes a complex living system in the soil and how it interacts with the environment, plants, and animals.

Food webs describe the transfer of energy between species in an ecosystem. While a food chain examines one, linear, energy pathway through an ecosystem, a food web is more complex and illustrates all of the potential pathways. Much of this transferred energy comes from the sun. Plants use the sun’s energy to convert inorganic compounds into energy-rich, organic compounds, turning carbon dioxide and minerals into plant material by photosynthesis. Plant flowers exude energy-rich nectar above ground and plant roots exude acids, sugars, and ectoenzymes into the rhizosphere, adjusting the pH and feeding the food web underground.

Plants are called autotrophs because they make their own energy; they are also called producers because they produce energy available for other organisms to eat. Heterotrophs are consumers that cannot make their own food. In order to obtain energy they eat plants or other heterotrophs.

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