The Value of Decomposers in an Ecosystem, specifically
in North Carolina and Belize Forests
Grade Level: 6-8
Author: Doreen Tylak, Winston-Salem, NC
The earth’s matter is limited—no significant amount of new matter
comes from space. The atoms in dead tissue need to be recycled back to living tissue.
Decomposition is how matter moves from living matter to non-living matter in an ecosystem.
There are numerous organisms whose job is to decompose dead animals and plant material,
so that plants can use new organic materials.
Compost, decaying logs, leaves, and surrounding soil; class aquarium; magnifying
glasses plastic spoons or small hand shovels; garden gloves, reference books/website
resources (see below) on decomposers in North Carolina and Belize.
Through discussion and observation, the student will recognize a relationship
between organisms and the environment. The student is expected to:
- Observe and describe the importance of decomposers in a forest
- Describe how a forest supports varieties of organisms
- Compare decomposers in N.C. and Belize
In small groups,
students will take apart and inspect natural debris, searching
for various decomposers. Students write about, draw, and
graph their observations. An ecosystem will be created in
the aquarium, so that the insects can be observed over a
period of time. Reference materials/website resources will
be referenced to write reports about decomposers in N.C.
and in the rainforest of Belize.
write a report about a specific decomposer (insect, worm,
fungi, or bacteria) in N.C. or Belize, including the following:
illustration and description of the decomposer; its natural
habitat; its role in the ecosystem.
Neotropical Companion by John C. Kricher