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The process by which complex organic matter is broken down into inorganic substances like CO2, water and nutrients is called Decomposition. The organisms taking part in decomposition are called decomposers, reducers, saprotrophs and scavengers.

The raw material for decomposition is detritus which is the disintegrating dead organic matter of plants and animals.

The decomposers breakdown complex organic compounds of dead or living protoplasm and release inorganic nutrients in the environment, making them available again to the autotrophs or producers.

The steps involved in the process of decomposition are:

  1. Fragmentation: It is the process by which detritus is broken down into smaller particles. E.g. Earthworms
  2. Leaching: It is the process by which water-soluble inorganic nutrients seep into the soil horizons to get precipitated as unavailable salts.
  3. Catabolism: Enzymatic process by which degraded detritus is converted into simple inorganic substances.
  4. Humification: The residual amorphous, partially decomposed black coloured organic matter which undergoes mineralization is called humus. The process of humus formation is called humification.
  5. Mineralization: The process by which humus is further decomposed by microorganisms to release inorganic nutrients is called mineralization.
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