Invertebrates play significant, but largely ignored, roles in the delivery of ecosystem services. Soil invertebrates are enormously diverse from microscopic mites to springtails, to woodlice, to earthworms.

Invertebrates play significant, but largely ignored, roles in the delivery of ecosystem services. Soil invertebrates are enormously diverse from microscopic mites to springtails, to woodlice, to earthworms. Despite being the bane of most gardener’s lives, even slugs and snails are beneficial. There’s around 40 species of slug and 100 species of snail in the UK. They can consume around forty times their weight in a day but, despite destroying plants, most are not pests and are actually found underground feeding on decomposing vegetation.

  • Brown-lipped_Snail_-_Cepaea_nemoralis
  • earthworm wriggling

Most soil invertebrates play crucial roles in nutrient cycling and decomposition by feeding on dead or decaying plant and animal material in the soils, breaking them down and releasing the nutrients contained within the material into the soil, increasing the soil’s organic matter content. They improve the health of the soil and therefore the plants growing in it. Without them, plants and crops would not be able to grow so it’s becoming increasingly important that conservationists and agricultural scientists know how to identify soil invertebrates and about their ecology. Most soil invertebrates require examination under a microscope to identify them to species level but some species of snails, woodlice and most species of slugs can be identified in the field.

Each Eco-Skills course is part of a learning framework.. You can see the course level descriptions here

FSC run regular Soil Invertebrates Courses throughout spring and summer. For details of courses, and to learn more about Soil Invertebrates click above to view our courses.

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Identification resources:


FSC Woodlouse Name Trail Fold-out Chart Full-colour laminated charts designed for use outside. Clear colour illustrations help you make a positive identification quickly

FSC Woodlouse Name Trail Chart features the 9 commonest species found in gardens and around buildings. Simple yes/no questions will quickly guide you to the colour photographs of each woodlouse. This includes body length, colour and distribution in Britain and Ireland.

AIDGAP Guides – The aim of AIDGAP series is to produce accessible keys suitable for non-specialists from sixth-form age upwards. All AIDGAP guides are initially produced as test versions, which are circulated widely to students, teaching staff and environmental professionals, with the feedback incorporated into the final published versions. In many cases the AIDGAP volume is the only non-technical work covering the taxa in question.
FSC AIDGAP Key to the Earthworms of Britain and Ireland
FSC AIDGAP Key to the Woodlice of Britain and Ireland
FSC AIDGAP Key to the Slugs of Britain and Ireland
FSC AIDGAP Key to the Land Snails in the British Isles