We've all seen -- and smelled -- the work of decomposers. Reach for an apple at the bottom of the fruit bowl, or take a whiff of a garbage can, and you'll likely have a pretty memorable tactile or olfactory experience.Unfortunately, the memories we most often associate with decomposers involve rotting food. The fact is, it's nearly impossible to recall the positive aspects of an organism that's responsible for turning an apple into a handful of goo. But consider this: All of the foods we eat -- including the foods that occasionally go bad before we get a chance to eat them -- wouldn't exist if it weren't for the work of decomposers. Without this diverse group of organisms breaking down nature's waste and making it usable again, life on this planet might not exist -- at least not in the way we know and enjoy it. Locked in the tissues of every plant and animal is a wealth of nutrients, including carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Living organisms require copious amounts of these and other elements in order to synthesize the structural compounds that make up cells and tissue and provide energy for life processes. These elements are an integral part of an organism's tissues throughout its life. When a plant or animal dies, those nutrients would remain forever locked in the dead organism's tissues if it weren't for decomposers. Decomposers, including fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates like earthworms, work to disassemble the cells and structures that made up the living organism. In the process of breaking down dead plant and animal tissue, decomposers not only gain energy to drive their own life processes, but release nutrients back to the environment, where they can be used again by other organisms.