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Destructors in the material cycle
Mushrooms decompose a tree trunk

In ecology, an organism that breaks down organic substances and breaks them down into inorganic constituents is referred to as a destruent (also reduced or (re) mineralizer ) . Destructors are therefore also called decomposers .


Destructors are usually bacteria and fungi (old term: "saprophytes"). In a broader sense, the destructors also include the saprophages , which feed on dead organic material; Saprophages and saprophytes together are summarized by some authors as saprobionts. However, saprophages do not completely decompose the organic matter into inorganic material, but separate part of it as feces.

Destruents are exclusively heterotrophic organisms. They form the last link in a food chain (see also trophy level ) and complete the cycle of materials by making the inorganic materials available to the producers .

A distinction is made between two phases in remineralization: mechanical crushing and biochemical decomposition. The animals that are responsible for breaking up and distributing the organic matter in the soil are primarily earthworms , horn mites and springtails . Fungi and bacteria complete the process and provide the producers with raw material for assimilation .

The rate of degradation varies and depends, among other things, on the nature of the organic substances as well as on temperature and pH value . A high temperature and a neutral pH value have an accelerating effect.

Globally speaking, destructors are resource or substrate controlled. They are limited by the amount of dead organic matter available and not by other factors such as disease or parasites.

Individual evidence

  1. cf. about Ulrich Gisi: Soil Ecology . Thieme, Stuttgart - New York, 1990, p. 77.
  2. ^ Matthias Schaefer : Dictionary of Ecology . 4th edition, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg, Berlin 2003. ISBN 3-8274-0167-4 , p. 285.
  3. ^ Frank A. Klötzli: Ecosystems , Spectrum, Stuttgart - Jena 1993, p. 272 ​​ff.
  4. Natura Biology for high school . 1st edition. Ernst Klett Verlag GmbH.
  5. Nentwig, Bacher, Beierkuhnlein, Brandl, Grabherr: Ökologie . Spectrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg 2004. ISBN 3-8274-0172-0 , 139 f.