Walk any forest trail these days, and you’ll be scuffling through crunchy brown, yellow and ochre leaves. It’s next to impossible to walk quietly, unless the leaves have been dampened by rain. I recently read of a forestry study that examined landscape rainfall infiltration rates. Thanks to accumulated leaf litter, a mature deciduous forest absorbs rainfall faster than any other type of landscape, reducing runoff and improving rainwater filtration. Leaf litter facilitates infiltration by providing habitat for detritivores, the small creatures in our world who make all of our organic wastes disappear. The detritivores, in turn, are part of the food chain for other creatures who, mostly unseen by us, till the soil on the forest floor, opening it up to absorb rainwater. This year’s leaf litter forms a cover over last year’s litter, providing a partial moisture barrier essential for the balance of air, moisture and organic materials that comprise detritivore habitat. By carefully digging down through the leaf litter, you can see the progression of decomposition, from the new leaves on top to the humusy soil below.
Thoughts on the park, its residents and how to preserve its natural beauty.