The reasons why we care about soil fauna are related to their intrinsic, utilitarian and functional values. The intrinsic values embrace aesthetic or moral reasons for conserving below-ground biodiversity. Unfortunately, the protection of soil invertebrates has rarely been a criterion for avoiding changes in land use and management. Utilitarian, or direct use values, have been investigated more extensively for fungi, bacteria and marine invertebrates than for soil fauna. However, some traditional remedies, novel enzymes and pharmaceutical compounds have been derived from earthworms, termites and other groups, and gut symbionts may provide microbial strains with interesting properties for biotechnology. The functional importance of soil invertebrates in ecosystem processes has been a major focus of research in recent decades. It is suggested herein that it is rarely possible to identify the role of soil invertebrates as rate determinants of soil processes at plot and ecosystem scales of hectares and above because other biophysical controls override their effects. There are situations, however, where the activities of functional groups of soil animals, even of species, are synchronised in space or time by plant events, resource inputs, seasonality or other perturbations to the system, and their emergent effects are detectable as higher order controls.