An acre of temperate woodland produces about two tons of leaves, twigs, insect frass (excrement), and other debris every year. This organic matter is called leaf litter. What lives in the litter? What is the relationship of these organisms to their forest-floor environment? What do you think happens to this debris as the seasons change and the years go by? Can you imagine what woodlands would look like if this leaf litter accumulated undisturbed, year after year?
- What roles does leaf litter play in the woodland ecosystem? [shelter for seedlings, shelter for insects, nesting material, food, etc.]
- What invisible creatures do you walk pastor onevery time you walk through the woods? [bacteria, fungi, earthworms, nematodes, etc.] How do these invertebrates "take care of" leaf litter?
- What are some ways in which humans can protect this essential but little-noticed part of the woodland ecosystem? [stay on paths, keep dogs on the leash, pick up litter, etc.]
These and other facts are available in "Life in the Leaf Litter," published by the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (http://research.amnh.org/biodiversity/center/publ/pubscbc.html).