Soil plays a key role in enabling many life processes through actions including serving as the grounds for food and biomass production, monitoring environmental interactions and exchanges, storing carbon and other essential gases and nutrients and supporting a wealth of biodiversity. In addition to supporting natural life processes, soil plays a role in supporting artificial environments too. It serves as the foundation for infrastructure, including roads, railways and bridges, and helps preserve significant archaeological and historical sites.
One of the most basic and important jobs soil performs is allowing the growth of natural vegetation and plants. Soil around the world supports trees, bushes, and edible plants and flowers. It contains diverse nutrients and minerals suitable for plants of all kinds. These plants and crops grow on small family farms, in gardens, and in large commercial operations. They provide food for people and animals on local, national and international scales.
Soil also acts as a natural filter, helping to purify water as it leaches into the ground. Soil acts as a natural sponge, helping to absorb excess water during heavy rainfall, which in turn reduces flooding. Soil stores carbon, which in turn reduces the amount of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Soil sustains life in many habitats, and serves as valuable raw material in sand, gravel, ore and peat.