A Landfill Ecosystem A casual look at a pile of garbage in a landfill might lead you to believe there is no life there. Nothing could be further from the truth. Populations of bacteria, fungi, worms, and millipedes make up a community that is working hard to decompose (break down) matter in the landfill, as shown in Figure 1. All ecosystems contain decomposers to recycle matter. During decomposition large, complex chemicals are broken down into less complex chemicals. Eventually, the simpler chemicals are used by other organisms as nutrients (food). Earth has a limited amount of matter, so all life depends upon this recycling. To understand any ecosystem, including the landfill ecosystem, you must understand the abiotic components of the ecosystem. Moisture, temperature, and oxygen levels are the important abiotic components of a landfill site. Landfills need enough oxygen and moisture to support a large number of decomposers. Without the decomposers, the garbage would stay as it was when it was thrown away, instead of being recycled. (Figure 2). Figure 1. Biotic components of the landfill ecosystem. Bread mould, bacteria, earthworms, and millipedes are classified as decomposers. The centipede, beetle, and rat live on partially decomposed foods, but can also act as predators. b)earthworms a)millipedes f) scavenger beetles Figure 2 (see textbook for diagram) Abiotic components of the landfill ecosystem. Water, heat, and oxygen levels are important factors, especially for the growth of bacteria. If the landfill were sealed to prevent water and oxygen from entering, garbage would never decompose.