A world where autumn leaves don't decompose, but pile up, year by year and layer by layer, until they cover the forest floor. Soon all kinds of grasses, shrubs, and other low-lying vegetation would be buried beneath the fallen foliage. In no time at all, the leaves would smother the trees themselves. The fields, too, would be covered by a blanket of dead insects and weeds, from which no seed could sprout. Such a world would soon be completely uninhabitable, its life-cycle brief and self-defeating.

Thank goodness for the saprotrophs, Mother Nature's cleaning crew. They get their scientific name from the Latin words sapro, meaning "rot or decay", and troph, meaning "nutrition". They're also known as detritivores, or "waste eaters".

"Think of it like a vast, planetary recycling program, which takes the raw material of life and repurposes it." ...[Continue reading on Factorialist]