Decomposers in a coniferous forest include fungi, worms, protozoans, nematodes and soil bacteria. Mites and Collembola insects feed on some organic matter, although they are not the primary decomposers.
The two most important decomposers in a coniferous forest are bacteria and fungi. While earthworms do decompose matter, they are more present in deciduous forests because they mainly feed on deciduous leaves, of which there are few in a coniferous forest.
Some insects also help to decompose matter, though they are secondary to bacteria and fungi. Termites, bark beetles, wood borers and ants feed on decomposing matter, but, more importantly, they scatter or fragment this matter around the forest.
Decomposition occurs either in aerobic or anaerobic, oxygen or oxygen-free, environments. In anaerobic environments, bacteria are the main decomposers, because the other decomposers require oxygen. The process usually takes longer with only bacteria to break down the organic matter.
In aerobic environments, oxygen is present, making fungus the primary decomposer. During the decomposition process, the fungus produces cellulase, an enzyme that breaks down organic matter into simpler forms of sugar. Ectomycorrhizal fungi live at the base of certain fir trees and decompose the litter that falls to the ground. Shelf fungus grows on trees and slowly feeds on the living tree, breaking it down into simple organic matter.