Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust

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fungi.JPG (41620 bytes) In addition to bacteria, the soil contains many species of microfungi. One gram of soil may contain hundreds of metres of fungal hyphae. However, larger fungi such as the Field Mushroom or the Shaggy Parasol (left) are usually absent from the intensive grassland. This is because of factors such as high nitrogen levels, together with the associated trampling, grazing and mechanical operations of a modern grassland farm.
pat2.JPG (35192 bytes) Grasslands provide some excellent microhabitats. Cow-dung is colonised by a dazzling array of invertebrates, fungi and bacteria. The humble cowpat will support about 450 species of invertebrate. Colonisation starts as the dung exits the cow. Some species of fly lay their eggs in the cowpat before it even hits the ground! Once on the ground, beetles zoom in, diving into the soft dung before it hardens. Within this busy colony of animals, there are the consumers of the dung, together with their predators.
copepod.JPG (19148 bytes) Other microhabitats associated with grasslands are easily overlooked. Fields which are grazed are usually provided with cattle troughs. These mini ponds can support algae and feeding on this, thousands of invertebrates such as ostracods can exist (left). The stagnant conditions also favour midge and mosquito larvae. Inevitably, predators such as aquatic beetles fly in and lay their eggs. They and their larvae will feed on the invertebrates in the trough.