For the publicJourney to the Centre of the Earth: the first 23cm

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Spot the ecosystem: Why does it matter?

Is everything everywhere in soil? Who knows - we can't detect very low numbers of microorganisms. Soil communities are huge and diverse, influenced by soil type, climate and plants, so the relative abundance of different groups does vary. Hover over the images to compare the different ecosystems: each coloured spot represents a different group of organisms with potentially contrasting activities.

These displays are representative of a DNA microarray although it has many fewer spots (512) than a "real" microarray which may have more than 10 million. Soils in the contrasting ecosystems (or "biomes") support different biological communities including soil bacteria, archaea and fungi. This "biodiversity" may mean different groups are present, or the relative numbers within different groups varies, or both. When a you hover over an ecosystem, then an illustration of a microarray is shown using patterns of red, green and yellow lights. These represent the biodiversity found in different ecosystems, the higher the diversity the more lights are displaced: highly degraded ecosystems such as the contaminated site will have low diversity, plant species-rich grassland or rainforest may have much higher diversity.