Stebbins Gulch Decomposition

Decomposition in Action

Unlike most green plants, mushrooms lack chlorophyll and cannot manufacture carbohydrates through photosynthesis.  Mushrooms relate to other life forms in three major ways.  Some act as saprophytes, living on dead organic matter and breaking it down chemically, as in the tree trunk shown above.  This is beneficial because the process releases the nutrients needed by living plants back into the soil.  Dead organic matter would take a lot longer to rot if it weren’t for the action of fungi.  Other fungi act as parasites, attacking living plants and animals, definitely not a beneficial process.  In the third category are mycorrhizal mushrooms.  They enjoy a vital symbiotic relationship with plants.  They extract nutrients from the soil and make them available to root systems of green plants by sheathing and extending the roots.  In exchange, the mushroom receives carbohydrates  from the green plant.  Both plants and fungi benefit as a result.

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