Life Sciences

Hot Pile

HOT PILE is a container that is full of rotting plants—and life. Worms and beetles, and other insects feeding in the pile produce heat as they extract nutrient from the rotting plants. But most of the organisms living in the hot pile, the ones that produce the most energy—and produce the most heat—are microscopic bacteria. There are billions of bacteria in just a pinch of dirt. Bacteria extract energy from plants by using substances called enzymes. Enzymes set off chemical reactions that break down the nutrients in plants. These reactions release heat as a waste product. The decomposed nutrients feed the bacteria and replenish the soil, which nourishes living plants.