Nature On Our Doorsteps: Nothing is wasted in nature
Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures.
Nothing is wasted in nature.
When leaves and plants die away for the winter, nature’s army of recyclers get busy.
If we didn’t have the army of slugs, worms, and woodlice that many people shudder at, or if we didn’t have the moulds, mildews, and mushrooms that pop up where we least expect them to, we would be swamped in dead matter that had nowhere to go!
Mushrooms are perhaps the most visible of the recyclers, popping up on rotting wood or appearing in grassy lawns and verges.
This ability to appear overnight is why, in Irish, fungi are called ‘fás aon oíche’ – grow in one night.
The mushroom we see is only the fruiting body.
Most of the fungus is underground or deep inside the decaying wood, busily breaking down bulky organic material into the individual nutrients that it requires itself in order to grow and produce spores.
As the fungus spreads and dies, basic nutrients are returned to the soil, ready to feed next season’s growth.
Slugs, worms and woodlice are also vital to this process.
They recycle by eating dead leaves and wood and then excreting their own nutrient-rich waste to the soil. Anyone who has used worm compost will know how rich this waste material can be.