Function: Cycling of substances

Decomposition of dead organic matter by soil organisms releases carbon compounds, nutrients and other vital substances. First the dead organic matter is eaten and digested by larger soil organisms such as earthworms or arthropods, or degraded by some fungi species. During the process the matter is mixed with soil. After this smaller microorganisms degrade the compounds further to simpler forms that can be used by plants, fungi and other soil organism for reproduction and growing.

But not all dead organic matter in the soil decomposes. Part of it becomes humus, organic compounds that play a central role as nutrient and carbon storage and in soil structure. One important mechanism in decomposition process is also the breaking down of substances that are considered pollutants or toxins.


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