Soil life supports the functioning and biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems. Springtails (Collembola) are among the most abundant soil arthropods regulating soil fertility and flow of energy through above- and belowground food webs. However, the global distribution of springtail diversity and density, and how these relate to energy fluxes remains unknown. Here, using a global dataset representing 2470 sites, we estimate the total soil springtail biomass at 27.5 megatons carbon, which is threefold higher than wild terrestrial vertebrates, and record peak densities up to 2 million individuals per square meter in the tundra. Despite a 20-fold biomass difference between the tundra and the tropics, springtail energy use (community metabolism) remains similar across the latitudinal gradient, owing to the changes in temperature with latitude. Neither springtail density nor community metabolism is predicted by local species richness, which is high in the tropics, but comparably high in some temperate forests and even tundra. Changes in springtail activity may emerge from latitudinal gradients in temperature, predation and resource limitation in soil communities. Contrasting relationships of biomass, diversity and activity of springtail communities with temperature suggest that climate warming will alter fundamental soil biodiversity metrics in different directions, potentially restructuring terrestrial food webs and affecting soil functioning.