The biologically active, porous medium that has developed in the uppermost layer of the Earth's crust. Soil serves as a natural reservoir of water and nutrients, as a medium for the filtration and breakdown of injurious wastes, and as a participant in the cycling of carbon and other elements through the global ecosystem. It has evolved through the weathering of solid materials such as consolidated rocks, sediments, glacial tills, volcanic ash, and organic matter. The bulk of soil consists of mineral particles composed of silicate ions combined with various metal ions. Organic soil content consists of undecomposed or partially decomposed biomass as well as humus, an array of organic compounds derived from broken down biomass.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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