| University of Oregon | Environmental Studies Program | HJ Andrews Experimental Forest
Home Project DescriptionEducational ResourcesVirtual TourAbout UsContact Us


Post 2 - Decomposers

If dead leaves, trees, branches, fungi, and other species are continuously falling to the forest floor, why isn't it covered in a deep layer of debris? Look closely at the ground or a downed log. You might see a beetle, a millipede, a slug, or a mushroom. We often think of these organisms as pests, but these decomposers in the soil actually benefit the forest by breaking down dead plant and animal debris into nutrients that new plants need to grow.

You can see this cycle in action on the log that has fallen across the trail. The young western hemlocks are absorbing nutrients from the decomposing log. You can find these nutrient-rich "nurse logs" throughout the forest. Decomposers keep nutrients cycling; without them, life in the forest could not continue.

We know decomposers are good for the forest, but do you think the events that cause trees to die, like fire and strong winds, are healthy for the forest?

Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.

Decomposer-1 Decomposer-2 Decomposer-3 Decomposer-4 Decomposer-5 Decomposer-6 Decomposer-6

This is a nine minute interview between Heather Canapary and Mark Harmon, Ph.D about how logs decompose and how research is valued in forest management. If you would like, you can download the mp3 version by right clicking here and pressing "save as."

Post 1-Succession Arrow Left   Arrow Right Post 3-Disturbance