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The Joy of Dead Wood
April 2021
by Paula Doherty

If you go for a walk around a nature reserve, you will probably encounter stacks of logs or even whole fallen trees in some places. Think of this as yet another different habitat – this dead and dying wood is an important piece in the ecosystem jigsaw.

Piles of rotting logs provide much needed homes and food for a vast array of wildlife. Amphibians, reptiles and small mammals will all find shelter and safety in them, for example common lizards adore log piles for basking, hunting prey and finding a mate.

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Fungi will start to grow on them, and invertebrates will be present in increasingly large numbers as the wood decomposes. Invertebrate numbers have declined steeply, partly due to the use of insecticides but also because of the ‘over-tidying’ of the countryside; so, stacks of wood assist them to flourish on a local level. They are an important part of the food chain, providing meals for many birds, mammals and other wildlife.

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Dead wood, both on the ground and standing, is a natural yet sadly declining part of a healthy landscape. The next time you need to deal with a dead tree, or some lopped or fallen branches, resist the urge to be over-tidy and think about creating this secondary habitat to help support all manner of creatures for years to come!

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