Research & Education

What’s So Great About Dead Wood?

Celina Montorfano - June 30, 2021
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Some see a dead tree… we see endless potential!  It might be easier to identify the benefits living trees bring to parks and protected areas, but did you know dead trees are just as vital to keep our natural areas healthy?

This snag serves a vital role for local wildlife!

Dead wood breaks down into nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.  These nutrients enrich the soil near decaying wood helping new plants grow and keeping living ones healthy as the nutrients are reabsorbed.

Dead wood comes in two varieties.  Logs are dead wood that has fallen over while snags are dead wood that still stands.  Both provide homes for wildlife.  Salamanders and snakes utilize logs in different ways: salamanders make their homes under logs, while snakes sit on top of them to feel the warmth of the sun.  Just like logs, snags serve a variety of purposes for wildlife.  Raccoons and tree squirrels like to make their homes inside snags, while owls and eagles rest on the bare branches to spot prey. Starting to understand just how valuable this dead wood is?!

Last but not least, dead wood serves to provide food for wildlife.  Dead wood provides food in two ways—plants and animals, such as mushrooms and insects, eat the dead wood directly.  In turn, those mushrooms and insects are then eaten by other things, such as deer and woodpeckers.  Since dead trees provide the space for so much life it’s no wonder people are starting to use new terms such as wildlife trees instead of snags, because there’s actually such an abundance of life around these ‘dead’ trees.

When visiting our outdoor spaces, it’s important to remember everything has its place in nature and needs to be left where we find it. What might look dead to you looks like a mansion to a squirrel and the log rolled out of the way might have been a buffet for a deer!

By the Subaru/Leave No Trace Teams. For over 20 years these teams have provided tangible solutions to serious issues facing our outside space and reach over 15 million people every year. Learn more about the important work of our mobile education teamsProud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Thule, Fjällräven, The Coleman Company and Klean Kanteen.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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