Sunday, August 26, 2007

Soils, litter continued

I remember a visitor's comment that he couldn't understand why the tropical soils were so poor in nutrients. With so many leaves and other forest debris falling on the ground, why don't the soils become richer in organic materials? I don't have a scientific answer to explain the process but I know that as the rainy season gets under way, the litter on the ground begins to get compacted. By the end of the rainy season in July, there's very little left. The ground is almost bare! Where did it all go? For food, of course. Remember that once we get beyond the thin topsoil, there aren't many nutrients around from which the trees and other flora can feed on. Termites and microorganisms decompose the litter into a form that root systems can feed on it. The demand for food is so great in the dense tropical forest, very little, if any nutrients can be stockpiled. The forest is hungry!

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