Did you know that one day microbes will recycle your body to make new life?

Did you know that one day microbes will recycle your body to make new life?

Have you thought much about the cycle of life? 

About how in nature everything goes through stages -  that there is not a beginning or an end, just a cycle of things growing and flourishing and then dying and decaying and then starting again? 

Well microbes are incredibly important in this cycle of life. And soil microbes especially. 

Why? Because microbes do two fundamental things: they break down and aid decomposition and they build up, nourish and create new life. 

A recent study by Tennassee microbiologist  Jennifer DeBruyn  found out something spectacular! 

When a person dies and is buried in the ground, it is the anaerobic microbes inside them that begin the decaying process. At some point these microbes come into contact with soil microbes. Now there are billions of microbes in healthy soil so DeBruyn expected to find that they would consume or outcompete the microbes from a decaying body. 

But to her surprise, her first finding was that the host’s microbes (read dead body - sorry for the gory science) were still present in the surrounding soil for months or years after a body had decomposed. 

Not only that - and this is the spectacular bit - but that microbes from the host actually cooperate with native soil microbes to help decompose the body. 

And - it keeps getting better - microbes play a really essential role in recycling forms of nitrogen, such as protein, into inorganic forms - such as ammonium and nitrate that microbes and plants can use to create new life. 

This means that your dead body is a real gift to the planet. Literally. 

The recycling of nutrients from dead organic matter is a core process in all natural ecosystems and fuels biodiversity, linking together stronger food webs. 

DeBruyn says 

“Living animals are a bottleneck for the carbon and nutrient cycles of an ecosystem. They slowly accumulate nutrients and carbon from large areas of the landscape throughout their lives then deposit it all at once in a small, localized spot when they die. One dead animal can support a whole pop-up food web of microbes, soil fauna and arthropods that make their living off carcasses.” 

It is not uncommon to see plant life flourishing near a decomposing animal.

This is a brilliant reminder that we are so intimately connected to nature.

Right, time to rewrite my funeral plan to ensure I give my body to mother Earth.  

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