What a gift it was to find this decomposing stick on the forest floor while spending time at Satterlee Creek Environmental Center. Each of the three obvious organisms on this stick serve as building blocks for the forest.
This jelly fungi is very good at gathering energy from fallen branches like this one, and will help to eventually turn this wood back into nutrient rich soil; a very beneficial thing to do for the forest!
This variety of Acrocarpous moss, along with many other varieties of mosses act like sponges since they are very good at storing water. Mosses have the ability to reduce flooding and they also benefit the forest by slowly releasing water into the soil (verses quickly, which would cause erosion).
Lichens, like this foliose lichen are a combination of fungi and algae living together. Many lichens have the ability to do what's called "fix" nitrogen. Plants need nitrogen to grow. Gathering nitrogen presents a challenge for many forest plants. Lichens like this one can actually collect nitrogen from the air, and this brings more needed nitrogen into the forest ecosystem through lichens.
There is so much more that each of these members of the forest community contributes to the overall health of the forest. It makes me sad when I see people totally overlook them. They might be small and inconspicuous but each has big and important roles to play in the forest ecosystem. Take a closer look the next time you see one or several of these in the forest. See if you can discover other ways that they might benefit the forest, through your own observations of them.