Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nursery log

Nursery log, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

On our swamp walk after our art get-together at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, we came across this nursery log. Nursery logs (or nurse logs) are fallen trees; the decomposing trunks create a food web in the forest or swamp. When this log fell, it left a gap in the canopy which let additional sunlight into the swamp. As it decayed, the log became home for many types of life: insects, fungus, mosses, ferns, and tree seedlings.

The softening wood provides nutrition and a raised bed away from the competition of existing plants on the woodland floor. Leaf litter collects in the nooks and around the base of the degenerating log, which provides habitat and nesting material for small animals.

Detritivores such as bacteria, fungi, millipedes, slugs, terrestrial worms, and small land crabs feast on the log and the surrounding leaf litter. They break down large matter into smaller pieces and return nutrients back into the soil. In turn they are eaten by birds and small animals, which are preyed on by even larger species.

This particular log was probably a felled cypress. The diameter of the remains is about two feet; the truncated length suggests that it may have been left as a remnant of the cypress logging heyday in the mid 1900’s. What amazes me about this log is the number of seedlings, mosses, and fungi growing on it – I can only imagine the activity going on inside of it!

You can click on the caption below the image to see it on my Flickr photostream.