The new life of dead trees
Dani Tinker, with the National Wildlife Federation, on the wonderful weird things growing in that felled log out back.
I recently learned that dead trees provide vital habitat for more than 1,000 species of wildlife nationwide. The two most common types of dead wood you’ll find in your yard, along a trail or at a park are snags (upright) and logs (on the ground). Despite their name, dead trees are crawling with life. From the basking lizards on top to the beetles underneath, the list of wildlife that depend on logs feels endless. Here’s a sampling of what you may find if you explore a log more closely.
Summer is a fantastic time to find lizards, turtles and other cold-blooded species basking in the sun. This behavior is primarily a matter of thermoregulation, but may also be a means to regulate Vitamin D. Ants, snails and other insects are often found crawling along a log, while chipmunks and squirrels may use it as a place to rest.
Logs provide great cover for small mammals like foxes, rabbits, bobcats, skunks and raccoons. Bobcats are known to nap inside logs, while foxes may use it as a place to build their den. The inside of a log also provides protection from some predators. The picture below is of a red-tail hawk attempting to get a squirrel, who cleverly took refuge inside a log.
A nature walk rarely feels complete without flipping at least one log. The treasures beneath a log may include beetles, worms, spiders, salamanders, newts or centipedes. What you find on your flipping adventure will depend on the time of year, weather, moisture, and a number of other factors, but it’s all worth it. As you flip, roll the log back toward you, using it as a barrier and giving critters a chance to get away.
Snakes will often use the space next to a log to rest or look for food. Since logs are crawling with life (prey to a snake), it’s a good place to find a meal. They might also curl up against or inside a log to rest and stay hidden from predators. Egg-laying snake species may deposit their clutches in or under a logs to keep them protected.
Moss, fungi and lichen are a few special organisms that can be found growing on logs. The simple structure of mosses (a type of bryophyte) allow them to grow where other plants may not be able. Dead wood is a place where many species of lichen and fungi thrive as well.
Whether you explore logs along your next nature walk. or decide to keep one in your backyard, logs need some appreciation. They provide both cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young. It’s also a step toward qualifying your yard as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Understandably, not everyone wants or has space for dead wood in their yard. You can visit a local nature site and investigate the wildlife that depend on logs near you. Enter your zip code into Nature Find to get a list of parks and trails nearby.
What have you observed on, under or near a dead tree?
This article was originally published by The National Wildlife Federation.
“Super cute. Deer frolicking in a puddle.”
This is James Smart’s breathtaking photo of an anti-cyclonic tornado touching down near Simla, Colorado. The image is the grand prize winner of the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest. Below, two of the other incredible honorees: Tugo Cheng’s photo of the Tian Shan mountain ranges in Central Asia; Andrew Suryono portrait of an orangutan in […]
The weather on Sol-d is simply too strange and unpredictable, pretty as it sometimes may be. We recommend colonizing Sol-e instead. Cold but serviceable. Stormscapes 3 is for those that enjoy the visual aspect of our beautifully unique Blue Marble’s fascinating weather, or those wishing to experience elemental nature in some of its most surreal […]
Light used to just be one of two things: on or off. Simple as that. Either a flood of yellow or total darkness. Then the dimmer switch happened and you could adjust the brightness to meet your seductive needs and suddenly everyone looked a little better in the gentler light. And now your luminary universe […]
Projects will always need management. And now with the tech gold rush it feels like there are more projects than ever with fewer managers than there’s demand for. But it takes too much time and money to go back to school full time so luckily the Project Management Professional certification training course is now 96% […]
If you’ve been blessed enough to avoid them yourself, you’ve definitely heard the horror stories. Late night, crushing out a ton of work, writing, coding, anything, then boom – your computer crashes. The battery blows, you spill water or coffee all over the place, or it just shuts down with no explanation, and you’re screwed. […]