|MadSci Network: Agricultural Sciences|
Hi Cheri, This is a very hard question to answer. There are alot of things that could happen. I'll give you this illustration, if you were pulling up a plant and you got it, roots and all, then the ground around the plant would be loosened and if it rained, the water would be able to move into hole where the plant was and get into the the soil much more quickly. However, if it didn't rain, the ground around the hole would dry out more quickly. Things that eat live roots would have to go someplace else, things that eat dead roots would increase in number. There will always be some root left behind. So as this root dies, bacteria and fungi will feed on it, breaking it down into much simpler compounds. In the eating process, the final products will be things like water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas, and minerals. Some of these simple compounds will be fertilizer for other plants. If the plant was a big tree and it was cut down, a very interesting thing will often happen. Because the stump and roots are very large they do not get broken down (eaten by fungi and bacteria) easily. Usually a fungus will get in through the stump and slowly work its way into the roots. This type of fungus grows fairly slowly so only a few inches to a few feet are broken down in a year. The fungus will grow outward from the stump in a ring. With the breakdown of the root and the release of compounds that can be used by other plants, a ring of greener and faster growing plants can be found above the ring of the fungus. When it is rainy the ring will often contain mushrooms which are part of the fungi that are eating the root. Each year the ring gets further out from the stump. In some places people call these rings 'fairy rings'. If you look closely you can find these in lawns of people who have cut down trees years before. Growing plants take things out of the soil, especially water and nutrients. Dying plants (roots) return their nutrients to the soil so other plants and animals can use them. Hope this is helpful. Steve
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