Today’s nature focus will be all about the unsung heroes of the world’s ecosystems. These fungi, bacteria and invertebrates (FBI), can be found in the rainforest, in the ocean, in the desert, and even in your own backyard. I am of course talking about the much overlooked decomposers!
Decomposers are nature’s clean-up crew. Without them, all the natural waste of the world would never break down! They are what keep energy flowing through our ecosystems, recycling nutrients back into the ground so that producers and consumers can thrive.
The three main players of the decomposition community are fungi, bacteria and invertebrates. Because decomposers are so essential to a functioning ecosystem, they can be found almost anywhere. Each group of organisms (fungi, bacteria, invertebrates) have special signs that you can look for to see that they are doing their jobs. I explored my backyard to find examples of decomposition to give you an idea of what to look for in your own yard and find the FBI in action!
Fungi are living organisms that can be found in an amazing amount of forms throughout the planet. One of the most common fungi we see all the time are mushrooms. I was a little disappointed when searching my backyard because I wasn’t able to find any mushrooms, but after lifting up a few damp logs I did find something just as exciting. I found these white, string-like structures hanging onto the damp wood, and I knew immediately I had found some mycelium! This is the part of the fungus that is responsible for breaking down decaying matter. You will always find a network of mycelium on anything being decomposed by a fungus. Mushrooms are very exciting to find, but they aren’t the part of the fungus that is responsible for recycling nutrients back into the soil - I was delighted to find a network of mycelium letting me know that there was fungal decomposition happening!
Invertebrates are the most fun of the FBI to find (in my opinion). I feel like I am always surprised by the amount of invertebrate decomposition going on when I flip over a log, or shuffle around some leaf litter. There are many signs of invertebrate decomposition to look for in an ecosystem, and usually you can find the invertebrate responsible!
Decomposers rarely ever work alone. Chances are if you find one member of the FBI, there will be other sources of decomposition nearby! I had a great time exploring my yard for signs of fungi, bacteria and invertebrate decomposition and I hope that you'll take some time to explore your own yard or neighborhood for signs of nature's clean-up crew!
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