Here's a sampler of soil knowledge; the chapters stand pretty well alone but build well if read in order. The subjects are 'fun stuff', oddities of natural history, but Wolfe points out the many practical things provided us by soil creatures: antibiotics, bioremediation, plant health... the one that surprised me was prarie dogs as pasture-maintainers.
Prairie dogs keep the plants near their cities pruned to just below prairie-dog standing height. I guess they like to be able to either stand up and look out, or drop down and scurry in secret. They don't, because of this, eat anything down to the roots. As many a lawn-caretaker knows, regular trimming of grass will often make it grow more densely. Better yet, mowing a bit higher, say, prairie-dog height, encourages many plants to grow and none to take over: it's one of the main things you need to do to maintain a flowering meadow. So prairie dog habitat often has denser and more diverse cover than the same land without its dogs; their cropping encourages clover, and discourages shrubs and prickly pear. Without the prairie dogs, bad-fodder shrubs and pear tend to take over and outcompete the grass, making the land less useful to grazing animals. There is, I gather, some reason to believe that prairie with prairie dogs would support more grazing animals than prairie without. (Consider, of course, the thundering herds before western colonization.)
Alas, the U.S. has been actively subsidizing the poisoning of prairie dogs since the early 19th c., and we don't have a lot left.
Find in a LibrarySo wrote clew in Science.