Do you see any standing or downed dead wood in the Marshfield Outdoor Learning Sanctuary? You should, it is everywhere. Most people view the dead wood as something to be cleaned up and burned, but it is TEEMING with life. According to leading ecologists, dead wood is the richest habitat in a healthy forest!
Why is it such a rich habitat?
Dead wood provides habitat for birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, millions of insects, moss, fungi, lichens, bacteria, plant seedlings, and slime molds.
What Makes It So “Rich”?
A wildlife habitat requires 3 things:
- SHELTER: Hollowed out trees/logs are used as nesting cavities for birds and squirrels. Decayed environments such as under bark provide excellent insect habitat. Dead wood also provides a sheltered environment for young seedlings to grow. In fact some trees require it.
- FOOD: Dead/decaying wood is food for fungi and a menagerie of insects: bark beetles, ants, grubs, millipedes, and wood lice, just to name a few. These insects attract other wildlife that feed on them, especially birds, This contributes to the diversity of the ecosystem.
- WATER: Dead wood acts like a sponge: all those insect tunnels and decayed wood provide a moist environment for its inhabitants.
Other Important Functions of Dead Wood:
- Plays a role in soil formation through decomposition of dead wood by insects and fungi. This recycles nutrients into the soil.
- Acts as a barrier to land erosion, stabilizing the soil.
- Provides habitat for algae, fish, and aquatic invertebrates in lakes.
As you explore this sanctuary, find the deadwood, look for the wildlife, and then leave the sanctuary as you found the area so it can continue to be the RICHEST OF ALL THE HABITATS.