Do you enjoy seeing the yellow, orange and red leaves of deciduous trees in Autumn? Do you enjoy hearing the dry, papery sound under your feet when you walk through piles of leaves? Have you ever wondered why Mother Nature does not remove fallen leaves?
Fallen leaves provide shelter and food for small animals, fungi and plants. Fallen leaves create a cool and moist environment for creatures like worms, snails and little sand hoopers, as well as many other animals too tiny to be seen with the naked eyes. Fallen leaves provide food for plant-eaters, which attract predators like spiders, beetles and toads.
Decomposition is a process of breaking down dead or decaying bodies into simpler forms of matter. It starts when a leaf falls to the earth. Fungi are the primary decomposer. Fallen leaves are nutrient-rich as they contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients trees extract from the soil during a growing season. As leaves decompose, nutrients are released and feed the surrounding plants.
Inquiry – Digging Deeper
Dig deeper into the lives found under fallen leaves! In the experiment below, you could possibly discover the following three groups in an ecological food chain:
Primary consumers: Animals that feed on plants and fungi (known as herbivores).
Secondary consumers: Animals that prey on other animals (known as carnivorous).
Tertiary consumers: Animals that feed on secondary and primary consumers (known as omnivores)
What you need:
- A small shovel
- A hand magnifying glass
- A paint brush
- A small tray
- A small container
- Go to a nearby park. Locate an undisturbed area.
- Put on your gloves and use the small shovel to collect several scoops of leaves and the soil.
- Spread the leaf litter in the tray.
- Use the paint brush to sweep through the leaf litter.
- Can you see insects? If so, using tweezers and gently put them in the small container.
- Examine the insects with the magnifying glass.
- Can you identify any of the insects collected?