Decomposition (or rotting) is the process by which organic substances are broken down into simpler forms of matter. The process is essential for recycling the finite matter that occupies physical space in the biome. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death. Although no two organisms decompose in the same way, they all undergo the same sequential stages of decomposition. The science which studies decomposition is generally referred to as taphonomy from the Greek word τάφος taphos, meaning tomb.
One can differentiate abiotic from biotic decomposition (biodegradation). The former means "degradation of a substance by chemical or physical processes, e.g. hydrolysis. The latter one means "the metabolic breakdown of materials into simpler components by living organisms", typically by microorganisms.