The Value of Dead Trees

Every tree dies eventually and its ecological value continues long after the last leaf falls. Whether it still stands, is reduced to a hollowed stump, or exists as downed wood, most of its “life” occurs in a complex, intriguing, unseen world. Imagine a time-share that is used by different species, for vastly different purposes, in every stage of its demise. Most species that use snags are associated with those that are about 15” in diameter though many benefit from smaller trees. No man-made structure matches the ecological usefulness of a sizeable dead tree; and few living things are as overlooked and unappreciated, except of course by wildlife and the vast industry of inhabitants at work on its remains beneath the soil.

Nature bequests dying trees to enrich habitats. A dead tree is a legacy that can take dozens of years to replace, and in many cases, it will never be. Whenever a tree is cut down needlessly and hauled away prematurely we short-change our urban forests and our planet. Dead trees represent one of the finest examples of reciprocity with the environment. A study of its relationship with wildlife and organisms above and beneath the soil is a profound illustration of the fact that individuality and independence in our ecosystems is an illusion.

Dying Tree

Value of Dead Trees for Birds

Northern Flicker by Tom Grey

Northern Flicker by
Tom Grey

Did you know that about 85 species of birds in North America nest in dying and dead trees? But nesting opportunities are only one of the benefits a dead tree provides birds. Even those that don’t make the tree their home favor it for its unique offerings. Discover a dead tree from a bird’s point of view! Read more…

Value of Dead Trees for Other Species


A dead tree is a virtual timeshare for a host of species from insects, to small mammals. Even some reptiles and amphibians benefit from a dead tree in some stages of its decay. It’s not always a happy co-habitation for the dead tree community, but a fascinating one nevertheless. Read more…

Value Of Dead Trees and Downed Wood to Ecosytems

Creek with Moss on Dead Wood

A rotting, leafless, unattractive old tree is one of the most unappreciated elements in a habitat. While serving as a hub for a variety of wildlife and other organisms, a dead tree facilitates intriguing inter-relationships between its guests all of whom play a role in benefiting the surrounding quality of the habitat and the soil beneath. Read more…

Nest Boxes as Substitutes for Dead Trees

bluebird at nesting box

Nest boxes have had many benefits, however in some circumstances they may not be without unintended consequences. Learn why a nest box is a sad substitute for a dead tree and the reasons that we might want to exercise caution in using them. Read more…