Soil protistology rebooted: 30 fundamental questions to start with

Stefan Geisen*, Edward A.D. Mitchell, David M. Wilkinson, Sina Adl, Michael Bonkowski, Matthew W. Brown, Anna Maria Fiore-Donno, Thierry J. Heger, Vincent E.J. Jassey, Valentyna Krashevska, Daniel J.G. Lahr, Katarzyna Marcisz, Matthieu Mulot, Richard Payne, David Singer, O.R. Anderson, Dan J. Charman, Flemming Ekelund, Bryan S. Griffiths, Regin RønnAlexey Smirnov, David Bass, Lassaâd Belbahri, Cédric Berney, Quentin Blandenier, Antonis Chatzinotas, Marianne Clarholm, Micah Dunthorn, Alan Feest, Leonardo D. Fernández, Wilhelm Foissner, Bertrand Fournier, Eleni Gentekaki, Michal Hájek, Hans Helder, Alexandre Jousset, Robert Koller, Santosh Kumar, Antonietta La Terza, Mariusz Lamentowicz, Yuri Mazei, Susana S. Santos, Christophe V.W. Seppey, Frederick W. Spiegel, Julia Walochnik, Anne Winding, Enrique Lara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


Protists are the most diverse eukaryotes. These microbes are keystone organisms of soil ecosystems and
regulate essential processes of soil fertility such as nutrient cycling and plant growth. Despite this,
protists have received little scientific attention, especially compared to bacteria, fungi and nematodes in
soil studies. Recent methodological advances, particularly in molecular biology techniques, have made
the study of soil protists more accessible, and have created a resurgence of interest in soil protistology.
This ongoing revolution now enables comprehensive investigations of the structure and functioning of
soil protist communities, paving the way to a new era in soil biology. Instead of providing an exhaustive
review, we provide a synthesis of research gaps that should be prioritized in future studies of soil
protistology to guide this rapidly developing research area. Based on a synthesis of expert opinion we
propose 30 key questions covering a broad range of topics including evolution, phylogenetics, functional
ecology, macroecology, paleoecology, and methodologies. These questions highlight a diversity of topics
that will establish soil protistology as a hub discipline connecting different fundamental and applied
fields such as ecology, biogeography, evolution, plant-microbe interactions, agronomy, and conservation
biology. We are convinced that soil protistology has the potential to be one of the most exciting frontiers
in biology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-103
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Biodiversity
  • Food web
  • Functional diversity
  • Microbial interactions
  • Protozoa
  • Soil protists


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