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Game: the hidden life of soils

Game: the hidden life of soils

This Happy Families card game, in the style of Go Fish!, will transport you into the secret world under your feet. Discover the hidden organisms that inhabit the soil, how they live, and how to study them.


The soil in your garden will come alive before your eyes!


Have fun learning about the diversity and functioning of the living soil environment from the 42 playing cards, each with a large photo and description. A supplemental educational booklet is also included for a deeper understanding.

Down-load the game!


For a complete and visually stunning depiction of soil biodiversity, the European atlas of soil biodiversity edited by the European Commission is available for order and free download here.






Microfauna and microorganism family
logo_microfaune_microorganismesThere are the smallest and most numerous soil organisms. They can only be seen under a microscope. This family includes unicellular organisms, such as bacteria and protozoans (ciliates and amoeba), and multicellular organisms, including fungi, rotifers and nematodes.


Mesofauna family
logo_mesofauneHere again, these organism are too small (less than 2 mm) to be visible to the naked eye, but they may be wiewed under a magnifying glass. Strange invertebrates are found in this family - tardigrades, enchytraeids, mites, and small insects such as collembolans, diplurans and proturans.


Macrofauna family
logo_macrofauneOrganisms of this family are visible to the naked eye – some are several centimetres in length, and a few earthworms grow to over a metre! Earthworms and some insect larvae in this invertebrate family may also be seen on the soil surface: woodlice, millipedes, ants and termites.


Megafauna family
logo_megafauneThese organisms are much larger, but not very numerous in soils. You will have to be patient to see them. These burrowing vertebrates include toads, moles, beavers, rabbits and badgers.


Soil family
logo_solThe soil consists of different components: solid particles (sand, silt, clay, organic matter), air and water. Soil diversity depends on the diversity of these particles, the climatic conditions, the soil use (agriculture, forestry, etc.) and the diversity of organisms that inhabit this environment.


Plant family
logo_vegetalPlants contribute to soil organic matter with their leaves which fall and form a litter layer on the soil surface. Plants are also anchored in the soils with their roots. Tipped with absorbing root hair, these roots are often associated with fungi (mycorrhizae) or bacteria (nodules). Lichen is also the result of a symbiotic association between an alga and a fungus.


Scientific family
logo_scientifiqueScientists such as C. Darwin, P.E. Muller and S. Waksman, using simple tools such as an auger, Berlese funnel or microscope, have enhanced our knowledge on life in soils. Nowadays, scientists use bioinformatics and advanced technologies to study soil biodiversity via DNA analysis.




This card game was initially designed and published in French under the GESSOL research programme, funded by the French Ministry of Ecology. This programme supports many research initiatives regarding soils and their sustainable management.


The authors of this game are Tiphaine Chevallier and Eric Blanchart (IRD), Jurgis Sapijanskas (French Ministry of Ecology), Camille Guellier and Antonio Bispo (ADEME) and Claire Chenu (GESSOL). The graphic design is by Béatrice Saurel. This English version was translated from the French by David Manley. We thank the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), Agropolis Fondation, the Association Française pour l’Etude du Sol (AFES), the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), the French Vanoise and Mercantour National Parks, and the teachers who tested this card game with their students.

Fichiers attachésMise à jourTaille
Game_life_hidden_soils_HD.pdf10/12/20145.94 Mo
Game_life_hidden_leaflet.pdf10/12/2014988.79 Ko
Game_life_hidden_rules.pdf10/12/2014804.69 Ko
Game_life_hidden_family.pdf10/12/20144.3 Mo