Soil protistology: a rising star?!

By:  Valentyna Krashevska1, Stefan Geisen2

1Post-doc University of Goettingen, Germany

2Post-doc Netherlands Institute of Ecology, the Netherlands


Part 4 in our 4 part soil protist series

Image:  Testate amoebae Euglypha









Soil protistology, despite a long history, is a rather unexplored field with many things to be studied. In the last three blogs we pointed out several of those points including unknown, yet huge diversity and abundance and the fundamental functional importance of protists in the soil food web and for plant growth promotion. They also are highly promising bioindicators to assess soil quality and allow palaeological reconstructions; for the latter, especially testate amoebae, which often have a rigid shell, play a key role.

Testate amoebae Tracheleuglypha


At PROTIST 2016, around 200 protistologists are gathering, yet, less than 10 % of the participants work in soils. This is surprising taken into account that even editors of general ecological or soil journals are increasingly understanding the potential in the field of soil protistology; just in the last 12 months, three papers purely focusing on soil protists (nematode feeding protists, huge diversity of parasitic protists in soils and parasitic protists in soil animals) were in the spotlight and received highlight articles (1, 2, 3, respectively). Many recent studies found their place in the highest (ecological) journals and this trend is likely to continue.

Now it is the time to actually jump on that train and bring this understudied field to the next level; many exciting discoveries are awaiting to be made, which might well outweigh findings on the other, better studied microbial groups of bacteria and fungi. This especially counts for integrating soil protist work with work on other soil organisms and in more general ecological studies!