Plant litter

Plant litter

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Plant litter, leaf litter or tree litter is dead plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

 material, such as leaves
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

, bark
Bark is the outermost layers of stems and roots of woody plants. Plants with bark include trees, woody vines and shrubs. Bark refers to all the tissues outside of the vascular cambium and is a nontechnical term. It overlays the wood and consists of the inner bark and the outer bark. The inner...

, needles, and twig
A twig is a small thin terminal branch of a woody plant. Twigs are critically important in identification of trees, shrubs and vines, especially in wintertime. The buds on the twig are an important diagnostic characteristic, as are the abscission scars where the leaves have fallen away...

s, that has fallen to the ground
Litterfall is the transport of leaves, bark, twigs and other forms of dead organic material and its constituent nutrients from the aerial parts of the biosphere to the top layer of soil, commonly known as the litter layer or O horizon.Litterfall has occupied the attention of ecologists at length...

. Litter provides habitat
Habitat (ecology)
A habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant or other type of organism...

 for small animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s, fungi
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

, and plants, and the material may be used to construct nest
A nest is a place of refuge to hold an animal's eggs or provide a place to live or raise offspring. They are usually made of some organic material such as twigs, grass, and leaves; or may simply be a depression in the ground, or a hole in a tree, rock or building...

s. As litter decomposes, nutrients are released to the environment. The portion of the litter that is not readily decomposable is known as humus.

The animals, fungus and bacteria that live in and eat plant litter are called detritivore
Detritivores, also known as detritophages or detritus feeders or detritus eaters or saprophages, are heterotrophs that obtain nutrients by consuming detritus . By doing so, they contribute to decomposition and the nutrient cycles...


See also

  • Coarse woody debris
    Coarse woody debris
    Coarse woody debris is a term used in English-speaking countries for fallen dead trees and the remains of large branches on the ground in forests. Some prefer the term coarse woody habitat . A dead standing tree is known as a snag and provides many of the same functions as coarse woody debris...

  • Detritus
    Detritus is a biological term used to describe dead or waste organic material.Detritus may also refer to:* Detritus , a geological term used to describe the particles of rock produced by weathering...

  • Leaf litter sieve
    Leaf litter sieve
    A leaf litter sieve is a piece of equipment used by entomologists, in particular by coleopterists as an aid to finding invertebrates in leaf litter....

  • Leaf mold
    Leaf mold
    Leaf mold is a form of compost produced by the fungal breakdown of shrub and tree leaves, which are generally too dry, acidic, or low in nitrogen for bacterial decomposition.-Description:...