Fungi are the ultimate recyclers on Earth. As the primary decomposers in the biosphere, they break down organic matter, including dead plants and other vegetation. As fungi actively decompose materials, carbon, nitrogen, and the mineral components present in organic compounds are released—all of which can also be recycled, with carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and minerals returned to the soil. It is estimated that, on average, the top 8 inches (20 centimeters) of fertile soil contain nearly 11,023 pounds (5 metric tons) of fungi and bacteria per 2.47 acres (1 hectare)! Without fungi acting as decomposers, dead, organic matter would overpower the world, and life on Earth would eventually become impossible.