What is it about?

Dead wood is too poor in nutrients to be inhabited by xylophages. Only the action of fungal mycelium, growing into the dead wood and enriching it substantially with nutrients imported from outside, makes this habitat suitable for xylophages. Thus fungi create a nutritional niche serving as “nutrient deliverers” for the invertebrates contributing to the decomposition of wood. Therefore fungi make up an important connection between soil, dead wood and mineral substrates in forest ecosystems. We conclude that fungal transfer of essential nutrients from the soil into the wood of dead trees is of fundamental importance for maintaining the detrital food web in forest ecosystems. The study base on ecological stoichiometry, but in addition to the more commonly investigated C, N and P, we studied nine other essential elements.

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Why is it important?

Wood eating beetles cannot rely on dead wood to develop. The decomposition of dead wood of any kind with a contribution of various meso- and macro-detritivores may depend on the integration of dead wood with the soil through mycelial networks.


It has been estimated that gathering from pure wood the amounts of atoms that compose the body of the wood eating beetle would require approximately 40 years for males and 85 years for females, which are bigger. In reality, the beetle’s growth period spans at most 3 to 4 years in nature. Therefore, the question arises: Where do all of the nutrients used to build the body of this organism come from? During the first few years of decay, dead wood nutritional composition becomes rearranged by fungi. Fungi utilize deadwood as a source of energy and while overgrowing it during first four to five years of decay they enrich and rearrange dead wood nutritionally. Ingrowing fungal tissues in dead wood are connected to nutritional patches of the environment outside of the wood. These patches may consist of organic matter that is rich in proteins or they may consist of minerals and rocks. Rocks may be diluted by fungi, and are sources of specific atoms utilized to build fungal tissues. Fungi may even “predate” on soil fauna. The acquired nutrients are translocated from the outside of dead wood to the inside through the fungal mycelium. By doing so they create a nutritional niche for dead-wood eaters. By consuming decomposed wood that is rich in fungal tissues, the dead-wood eater is able to grow, develop and reach maturity

Dr Michał Filipiak
Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University

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This page is a summary of: How to Make a Beetle Out of Wood: Multi-Elemental Stoichiometry of Wood Decay, Xylophagy and Fungivory, PLoS ONE, December 2014, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115104.
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