Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dead Leaf on Moss

On the forest floor, as well as the Garfield Park Conservatory floor, there are processes that are easily overlooked, yet are very important. Each year, many tons of leaves fall from the trees and shrubs and other plants, and without the decomposers, those things would accumulate and allow no seeds to germinate and would lock up all the nutrients to that the soil under there would become too impoverished to support the plants, and it would all come to a grinding halt. Yet the insects and slugs and snails grind it up and the bacteria and other microorganisms break it down and the fungi break it apart and dissolve it and soon the tons of leaf litter are tiny parts and liquid chemicals that leach into the soil to be used all over again. We hardly ever think of them, but there is more biomass of decomposers on and in the forest floor than there is above ground in the plants! If you think of it next spring, get down on your hands and knees or even lie on your belly and take a look at what is going on there on the surface and dig around a bit to see what is happening just underground.

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