Wednesday 26 September 2012

A Dead Tree Really Isn't Dead

When I was driving my kids to school the other day, I saw an eagle perched on a dead tree beside the railroad tracks along Garden Ave.  I started to think about the purpose of dead trees.  What was the point of keeping them?  I started to notice other dead trees along the side of the road, some with vegetation growing around them.  This morning while volunteering at BCS, I read a caption "A Dead Tree Isn't Dead" on a Kindergarten worksheet that I was photocopying.  I thought:  That's a great idea for a blog post!

So, I googled "A Dead Tree Isn't Dead" and several sites came up.  I found out that several species live inside standing dead trees, referred to as "snags".  They include:

-garter snakes
-wood frogs
-wood ducks
-red squirrels
-birds of prey
-small mammals (bats)

Another site gave me a list of what purposes the snags serve for these species:

-hunting perches (like the eagle that I saw)
-nesting (exterior & interior)
-food storage
-weather protection (now I know where local birds go in the winter time)
-food source (insects)
-roosting (settling down at night, for diurnal birds, or during the day, for noctural birds, on an elevated spot for the purpose of resting)

I was curious as to the number of snags in the average forest so I googled the question.  According to one Washington State study, the average wooded acre contains 16 standing dead trees.  A Kentucky wildlife website stated that a wooded area should have a minimum of 6 snags, but ideally 30. 

Apparently, a dead tree can stand for decades according to a Pennsylvania Conservation Department website.  Hardwoods (oak, maple, birch, dogwood) stand longer than softwoods (pine, balsam, cedar, spruce). 

All of the websites seem to agree that dead trees are full of life.  So, the next time you take a walk in the woods or a drive down the road, look for those dead trees.  They're more plentiful than you think!

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