Adapted from the Den of Airlie, Expedition Pack (SNH)
- To learn about decomposers and Nature's way of recycling
10 - 20 minutes.
You will need
- note books & pencils
Did you know?
Nearly 1/4 of all woodland insects find a use for dead wood!
Look for a tree that recently fell. Discuss with the class why the tree might have fallen. What is going to happen to it now? Is it of any use to the forest now that it is dead? Why isn't the wood piled high with fallen dead trees that lived 100's of years ago? Let their imaginations run riot as they try to imagine what the wood would look like if wood never rotted away). Take a photo of the tree with the class standing beside it and lots of other trees in the background for reference. Make notes about the plants which are growing on the bark of the tree. Now search for another tree, this time one that fell quite a long time ago. The trunk and roots will still be clearly visible, but what about the outer-most branches? Can you find them half overgrown on the ground, or perhaps they are almost indiscernible - just traces of woody remains on the ground. What plants are growing along the length of the tree? Carefully lift up a segment of a decaying branch. Can you find any minibeasts or minibeast holes? How do these help the process of decay? How many different species of fungi, living on the decaying wood can they find? Take a photo of each fungus and a photo of the whole tree with the class beside it. How is dead wood useful to the forest? Get the class to sketch the decaying tree and add notes to their drawing about the plants and animals they found on the tree.
Get everyone to stand very still and listen, can they hear a woodpecker? Search again and see if the class can spot any standing dead trees. What use are standing hollow trees? Who might have a nest in one? A pine marten, an owl, a woodpecker, a crested tit, a golden eye or it might be a roost for bats! Many mammals and birds can use hollow trees for shelter. In fact all the birds and mammals that we put up nest boxes for would naturally have used an old rotting tree to hollow out a nest from. Why are there few naturally occurring hollow trees now? (fallen trees are usually cut up and cleared away for fire wood or timber is grown to be harvested from plantations when it gets to a certain age).
If possible, return to the same place and take repeat photographs with a
different class, every year. Take the photographs from exactly the same
position. You will be able to show a sequence of time lapse photographs showing
nature's recyclers at work.
Suggested Follow up
Do the activity Fantastic fungi in the Biodiversity section
Set up an experiment with small round birch logs in the school grounds in a damp corner. Arrange some on their sides and some on their ends. Take photographs every season from the same fixed point, to show how the logs gradually decompose and becomes soil, aided by an ever changing series of fungi and mosses.
- All About....Fungi Factsheet and Poster - search the series - Education and Teachers resources on SNH Publications
- Information and photographs of native pine wood tooth fungi
- General information about fungi
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