How to create dead wood

How to create dead wood

Most woods today are uniform in age, but you can create this important habitat. After a few years the woodland will support a range of dead wood habitats that will attract a wide variety of associated wildlife.

Dead wood pile

  • Try not to clear up all dead or dying wood. Just take what you need for fire wood.
  • Create dead standing trees using a chainsaw to ring bark the trees. Make two cuts right round the tree’s trunk. The bottom cut can be made about a foot above ground level with the second cut some four inches above this. Remove the bark from between the two cuts, thereby killing the tree. Do this to a few different types of tree each year, as trees decay at different rates. Soon you will have a range of different stages of rotting trees, some of which will fall over.
  • Trees can be pollarded or have wounds, cuts and crevices made into an otherwise healthy tree mimicking natural aging or storm damage, quickly providing sites for dead wood species to colonise. Coppicing the understorey shrubs within a woodland creates open, sunny areas, ideal for many birds and butterflies. Make log piles in a shaded part of the wood so that it remains damp. If a tree is cut down for its timber value, leave the tree stump to rot in place.

Top tips

  • Create a mosaic of structure and habitats within woodlands.
  • Leave parts of the wood unmanaged.
  • Don’t rush to replant bare areas - if light is allowed in, natural colonisation will occur.
  • Deer control is vital.
  • The whole process is important, from damaged to dying wood, through to both standing and fallen dead wood.
Wildlife log pile

- Use decent-sized logs from broadleaved species of tree, ideally with the bark still attached.

- Place them in shade or partial shade, but not in full sun.

- Part bury some logs in the soil and, if you can, place them in a damp area.

- There is no need to make the log pile too high as the top logs will only dry out.

- Encourage plants to grow over the pile - you might even like to plant a climber such as honeysuckle or clematis.

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