Illustrated article
The world beneath our feet

The incredible carbon storing capability of the world beneath our feet - and how big data hopes to shed light on protecting it.

min read
Lucy de la Pasture
by Lucy de la Pasture

One third of the planet

According to the United Nations, farmland now covers more than a third of the Earth’s land area and is the most vital ecosystem to sustain human-kind.

Tropics means trees

Most of the world’s rainforests are situated in this band around the globe, stretching just above and below the equator. It’s here that the largest above-ground carbon is stored in vegetation and soil microbial diversity is the greatest.

The world’s largest living thing

A honey mushroom measuring over 3 miles wide has been discovered lurking in the soil beneath a North American forest.

Biodiversity underpins human life

Without biodiversity, human societies lack the essence of what they need to survive, including everything from food security to cultural identity.

Understanding patterns

Big data and artificial intelligence allow us to explore global patterns beneath the soil that are hidden by variations in microbial communities at a local level.

The latitudinal patterns of terrestrial carbon stocks, both aboveground plant biomass (green) and soil carbon stocks (brown). The majority of carbon stored below ground is greatest in the colder northern latitudes, and it’s here that much of our food is produced.
Source: T. W. Crowther et al. ,The global soil community and its influence on biogeochemistry. Science, Vol 365 (2019). DOI:10.1126/science.aav0550