Detritus Detritus


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Detritus

ecology
Written By:

  • The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
See Article History

Alternative Title:
detritus pathway

Detritus, in ecology, matter composed of leaves and other plant parts, animal remains, waste products, and other organic debris that falls onto the soil or into bodies of water from surrounding terrestrial communities . Microorganisms (such as bacteria or fungi ) break down detritus , and this microorganism-rich material is eaten by invertebrates , which are in turn eaten by vertebrates . Many freshwater streams have detritus rather than living plants as their energy base.

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:

  • energy transfer and heat loss along a food chain

    community ecology: The pyramid structure of communities
    Many freshwater streams have detritus rather than living plants as their energy base. Detritus is composed of leaves and other plant parts that fall into the water from surrounding terrestrial communities. It is broken down by microorganisms, and the microorganism-rich detritus is eaten by aquatic invertebrates, which are in…
  • Figure 2: Transfer of energy through an ecosystem. At each trophic level only a small proportion of energy (approximately 10 percent) is transferred to the next level.

    trophic pyramid: The base of the pyramid
    Many freshwater streams have detritus rather than living plants as their energy base. Detritus is composed of leaves and other plant parts that fall into the water from surrounding terrestrial communities. It is broken down by microorganisms, and the microorganism-rich detritus is eaten by aquatic invertebrates, which are in…
  • bracket fungus

    saprotroph
    …nonliving organic matter known as detritus at a microscopic level. The etymology of the word saprotroph comes from the Greek saprós (“rotten, putrid”) and trophē (“nourishment”). Saprotrophic organisms are considered critical to decomposition and nutrient cycling and include fungi, certain bacteria, and funguslike organisms known as…
  • Tundra and lakes during summer in the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia, Russia. Tundra ecosystems are found primarily in the Low Arctic region of North America and Eurasia. Most regions—with the exception of rock outcrops, dry ridge tops, and river gravel bars—are fully vegetated, primarily by dwarf shrubs, lichens, and mosses.

    ecosystem
    …matter is known as a detritus pathway. Both pathways are important in accounting for the energy budget of the ecosystem.…
  • leaves; beech

    leaf
    Leaf, in botany, any usually flattened green outgrowth from the stem of a vascular plant. As the primary sites of photosynthesis, leaves manufacture food for plants, which in turn ultimately nourish and sustain all land animals. Botanically, leaves are an integral part of the stem system, and they are initiated…

More About Detritus

4 references found in Britannica articles

Assorted References

    • ecosystems
      • In ecosystem
    • saprotrophs
      • In saprotroph
    • trophic pyramids
      • In community ecology: The pyramid structure of communities
      • In trophic pyramid: The base of the pyramid

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