The complexity of soil bacterial communities has thus far confounded effective measurement. However, with improved analytical methods, we show that the abundance distribution and total diversity can be deciphered. Reanalysis of reassociation kinetics for bacterial community DNA from pristine and metal-polluted soils showed that a power law best described the abundance distributions. More than one million distinct genomes occurred in the pristine soil, exceeding previous estimates by two orders of magnitude. Metal pollution reduced diversity more than 99.9%, revealing the highly toxic effect of metal contamination, especially for rare taxa.