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all organisms turn energy and food into living matter while producing waste materials of various kinds. This waste matter becomes food for legions of saprophytes, literally “decay eaters.” These decomposers, which outnumber species of all other kinds, include beetles, fungi, nematodes, and bacteria. Through their complementary metabolic pathways, they return both essential nutrients and trace minerals to active circulation.

Sim Van der Ryn, Stuart Cowan

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