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How is a dead tree good?

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Snags and dead trees provide many benefits to wildlife and forests.

Snags and healthy ecosystems

Standing dead trees, called snags, provide birds and mammals with shelter to raise young and raptors with unobstructed vantage points.

As forest ecologist Jerry Franklin, likes to say: "A dead tree is more alive than a live tree." Alive with critters from large to small, that is! Or as the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife notes, "Dead wood brings new life."


Over 500 species of birds, 300 species of mammals, 400 species of amphibians and reptiles, and nearly all fish – because of the beneficial effect of snags on watersheds – benefit from snags for food, nesting, or shelter.

Only 30 bird species are capable of making their own nest cavities in trees. The pileated woodpecker is a famous example. Another 80 animal species – like fishers – depend upon previously excavated or natural tree holes for their nests.Some, like wolverines, count on deep drifts piled around natural obstructions like dead tree trunks to dig their deep dens in winter.

The insulation of a tree trunk home allows wildlife to survive high summer and low winter temperature extremes.

Tree cavities and loose bark are used by many animals to store their food supplies. And insects living in dead wood eat thousands of forest pests which can harm living trees.

Fish and amphibians hide under trees that have fallen into the water.

Woodpeckers and creepers feast on the wood-eating insects and provide "sawdust" for ants to process. Deer and mountain caribou eat the lichen growing on the trunks.

Whether created through natural processes or active forest restoration, standing and down dead wood play an important role on the landscape.  

Source: Snag Facts with Impacts, US Forest Service
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