Web of life is such complex relationship where species drawing benefits from realities of life (of which death is but one) can go on along the line to support many other. For example a felled Douglas fir serves a purpose just as it alive would have done.
A Douglas fir alive would have held insects in check because of its sap; but when dead invites marauding insect- armies which turn it into a spongy mass. Even at this stage it can soak up moisture and store it away. In the process it renews forest soil.
A felled log has its uses considering the number of small organisms that live therein. Douglas Fir in a temperate climate holds immense colonies starting with folding-door spider, which builds its nest along the cracks in the bark to its centre where a black heart rot fungi will have a continual feast on the heartwood; meanwhile prowlers like centipedes, earwigs and pseudo-scorpions scavenge among loose bark for a meal or two.
Logs that fall into streams instead on the forest ground are not wasted. Logs rot in water and create pools retard erosion and enrich fisheries. Logs thudding into streams create condition for Coho salmon and steelhead that drop in attracted by cool oxygen-rich water. They also find plenty of aquatic insects that thrive in the clean water.
When we speak of web of life it would also mean all the conditions and circumstances that support life. It could be from elements spewed out at the death of stars; it could be in the formation of atmosphere and from interaction of land mass, ocean and atmosphere. Earth is a living planet and many systems are created in the process of its stabilization to make life appear as it did. Our planet occupies an intergalactic node but it also have many lateral webs of which the role of fungi is as vital as trees or plants..
Associations of fungi with the roots of plants have been known since at least the mid-19th century. However early observers simply recorded the fact without investigating the relationships between the two organisms. This symbiosis was studied and described by Franciszek Kamieński in 1879–1882. Further research was carried out by Albert Bernhard Frank, who introduced the term mycorrhiza 1885.
Mycorrhiza is a association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular (relating to water or nutrient carrying ) plant. The fungus sends out network of filaments connecting with the host plant’s roots. It serves a vital purpose enriching soil life and its chemistry. In turn these filaments or hyphae transfer soil nutrients to host plants. In woodlands owing to the abundance of trees fungi have a wide host range. Fungi have been found to have a protective role for plants rooted in soils with high metal concentrations, such as acidic and contaminated soils.
Fungus Laccaria bicolor has been found to lure and kill springtails to obtain nitrogen, some of which may then be transferred to the mycorrhizal host plant. In a study by Klironomos and Hart, Eastern White Pine inoculated with L. bicolor was able to derive up to 25% of its nitrogen from springtails.
Nutrients can be shown to move between different plants through the fungal network. Carbon has been shown to move from paper birch trees into Douglas-fir trees thereby promoting succession in ecosystems.
These filaments have shown ability to sense the presence of other filaments. Mycorrhizas are present in 92% of plant families studied 80% of species.
The point to remember is that not a single species stand by itself and its survival depends on many other branches in the web of life.(ack: wikipedia,National Geographic Magazine)