The fungi on this tree are decomposers
Decomposers (or saprotrophs) are organisms that break down dead or decaying organisms, and in doing so carry out the natural process of decomposition. Like herbivores and predators, decomposers are heterotrophic, meaning that they use organic substrates to get their energy, carbon and nutrients for growth and development. Decomposers can break down cells of other organisms using biochemical reactions that convert the prey tissue into metabolically useful chemical products, without need for internal digestion. Decomposers use dead organisms and non-living organic compounds as their food source. The examples are:
Bacteria are important decomposers; they are widely distributed and can break down just about any type of organic matter. A gram of soil typically contains 40 million bacterial cells, and the bacteria on Earth form a biomass that exceeds that of all living plants and animals. Bacteria are vital in the recycling of nutrients, and many steps in nutrient cycles depend on these organisms.
The primary decomposers of litter in many ecosystems are fungi. Unlike bacteria, which are unicellular organisms, most saprotrophic fungi grow as a branching network of hyphae. While bacteria are restricted to growing and feeding on the exposed surfaces of organic matter, fungi can use their hyphae to penetrate larger pieces of organic matter. Additionally, only wood-decay fungi have evolved the enzymes necessary to decompose lignin, a chemically complex substance found in wood. These two factors make fungi the primary decomposers in forests, where litter has high concentrations of lignin and often occurs in large pieces. Fungi decompose organic matter by releasing enzymes to break down the decaying material, after which they absorb the nutrients in the decaying material. Hyphae used to break down matter and absorb nutrients are also used in reproduction. When two fungi's hyphae grow close to each other, they will then fuse together and form another fungus.
Various types of worms are also considered decomposers, as they act as scavengers. For example, a worm that begins to consume an apple helps to hasten its decay by removing parts of the skin and flesh, exposing the interior of the fruit to the elements and to other decomposers.
See also 
- Beare MH, Hendrix PF, Cheng W (1992) Microbial and faunal interactions and effects on litter nitrogen and decomposition in agroecosystems. Ecological Monographs 62: 569-591
- Hunt HW, Colema9n DC, Ingham ER, Ingham RE, Elliot ET, Moore JC, Rose SL, Reid CPP, Morley CR (1987) "The detrital food web in a shortgrass prairie". Biology and Fertility of Soils 3: 57-68
- Smith TM, Smith RL (2006) Elements of Ecology. Sixth edition. Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco, CA.
- Swift MJ, Heal OW, Anderson JM (1979) Decomposition in Terrestrial Ecosystems. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
Environment & Energy Publishing
Wed, 22 May 2013 08:26:41 -0700
"What basically happened is that there was a feedback between the increased plant growth and the increased decomposer activity," said Sistla, who published her findings in a recent paper in Nature. As microorganism activity goes up, the amount of ...
Futurity: Research News
Tue, 21 May 2013 08:09:56 -0700
“Shrubs trap more snow than the lower-lying vegetation, creating warmer winter soil temperatures that further stimulate both decomposers and plant growth. Shrubs also increase summer shading, which appears to have reduced decomposer activity in the ...
Anchorage Daily News
Fri, 17 May 2013 12:36:10 -0700
Shrubs also increase summer shading, which appears to have reduced decomposer activity in the surface soil by reducing the greenhouse effect during the summer.” Read more: Researchers surprised by Arctic resiliency in carbon storage. Also, from Ars ...
Nature World News
Fri, 17 May 2013 07:01:46 -0700
Shrubs also increase summer shading, which appears to have reduced decomposer activity in the surface soil by reducing the greenhouse effect during the summer." The study is published in the journal Nature. © 2013 NatureWorldNews.com All rights ...
Thu, 25 Apr 2013 08:05:51 -0700
Children will be able to touch, learn about, and feed our worms as well as find cool “decomposer” bugs. Make a recycled, biodegradable seed pot that they will plant to take home! We will challenge children to learn about all items that can be recycled ...
Wed, 08 May 2013 09:48:17 -0700
Rien n'est éternel. Rien, sauf les cadavres des cimetières allemands. Dans une quarantaine de cimetières, parmi lesquels ceux de Kiel, Munich et Cologne, on n'accepte plus de nouveaux résidents. Pourquoi ? Car leur sol est rempli de cadavres… non ...
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