Litter: a fresh perspective on life under the leaves

Autumn leaves
© Ruth M. Bancewicz

Next time you take a walk through a forest, sit down on the fallen leaves, rustle a hole in the top layer, breathe deeply, and take in the aroma of fresh earth. Sterilised soil smells somehow wrong to our noses –  it lacks the homey feel of childhood dens and freshly ploughed fields. But on productive land, like an ancient forest or well-tended farm, it smells right. Our noses know what to look for – the rich earthy scent of microbial decomposition. Continue reading

The Wood-Wide Web

© RM Bancewicz
© RM Bancewicz

This spring, I experienced old-growth forest for the first time. I’m not sure that we have such undisturbed woodlands left in the UK[1], but on a visit to Vancouver Island I saw the most incredible temperate rainforest that made recent tree plantations look completely and utterly sterile. Owing to the relatively mild, wet climate of British Columbia, mosses and ferns cover nearly every available surface, and the undergrowth is close to impenetrable. Continue reading