The development of humus from dead organic material, by the action of saprotrophic organisms which use this dead material as their food source. Humification is essentially an oxidation process in which complex organic molecules are broken down into simpler organic acids, which may subsequently be mineralized into simple, inorganic forms suitable for uptake by plants. Humification is therefore a vital stage in the cycling of nutrients. The degree of humification in a peat profile is often associated with the general colour of the peat, darker peats being better humified. The degree of humification relates to the wetness of the surface conditions at the time of peat formation, which can provide an index of climatic wetness at the time. Peat humification studies are now a major source of information about past climate change.
Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry — Ecology and Conservation.