dead tree on forest floor covered in moss and dead tree standing

Dead Trees Matter

A dead tree might seem useless to thriving forest, however, dead trees play an integral role in keeping that forest healthy and sustainable. A standing dead tree, also called a snag, ironically supports life in many ways. The primary importance of a dead tree is as it gets decomposed by fungi and bacteria, the dead wood gets its nutrients released back into the ground which helps future saplings grow and flourish. Other secondary uses for dead trees that help many aspects of the forest include:

  • Dead logs shelter for animals like snakes, squirrels, opossums, and other nesting mammals
  • Woodpeckers drill the snags as supply for food and as a nesting site.
    • Woodpeckers test each snag to see which wood is the softest, the softer the wood, the more likely a Woodpecker will be nesting there.
  • A dead tree provides birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and owls a perch to get a better view of prey on the ground without being obscured by leaves and branches. 

Dead trees may not have the beauty it once had, but the tree still provides an invaluable contribution to the overall health of a forest. Next time you see a dead tree, keep a lookout for creatures that may be calling it their home.

From Eshan Narasipura, TU Intern