The James River Association website recently featured a piece by Deya Ramsden of the Virginia Department of Forestry on the secret life of forest soil in winter.
In February, the winter forest may not appear to be particularly active. However, below ground, the soil remains dynamic in temperate forests even when outdoor temperatures are chilly. In a mature forest, the soil is made up of a complex mix of tree roots and a community of fungus, microbes and good bacteria. The soil organisms are vital for breaking down organic matter so nutrients are available for uptake by the tree roots and to sustain the community itself. The soil bed maintains at a fairly comfortable temperature year-round. Even if above grounds temperatures are below freezing, soil temperatures never drop below 30˚F. In addition, the deeper layers of soil maintain even higher temperatures.
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