We need more deadwood

Hannah Bowey
Thursday 23 December 2021

Deadwood is naturally occurring, consisting mainly of veteran trees, standing or dying trees, fallen logs and branches.

This organic material has huge ecological value, playing a key role in maintaining a forest’s health and life cycle. Deadwood is the richest habitat in a healthy forest that supports a range of biodiversity, up to 30% of European forest species, water storage, soil nutrient and carbon storage.

Image description: Orange Velvet Foot Flammulina velutipes fungi colonising dead wood log (Image source: Hannah Bowey).


Unfortunately, there isn’t enough deadwood in our landscapes.  Many of our woodlands and forests have for a long time been poorly managed in a way that is too tidy! Raising the amount of deadwood in managed woodlands and forests to 20-30 metres squared per hectare (m3/ha) would be a major step towards the goal of good forest management in the UK.

From time to time, storms – like the recent Storm Arwen at the end of November- can cause trees and branches to fall down. Rather than tidy up all of the fallen wood and logs, leave a small pile tucked away and very quickly it will become home to lots of insect and animals. By making space for and leaving deadwood, we can contribute to these systems, enhancing the ecosystem services they provide.

Create your own deadwood log pile

  • Use a mixture of wood and different sized logs with the bark on, such as beech, oak, ash, and elm.
  • Adding a pile of leaf litter can attract even more creatures, such hibernating Toads, or even Hedgehogs.
  • You will need to add new logs as the old ones decay over the years.
  • Decaying wood also supports a range of fungi, including Orange Spot and the oddly-named Candle Snuff.

Fun Fact: Fungi have an important role in wood recycling, being the only species that have the ability to break down wood using special enzymes.

We can make a big difference with quite little effort, and if done wisely and safely, we can increase the amount of deadwood and biodiversity across the St Andrews town and surrounding area.

List of references & useful resources:

  1. Forestry and Land Scotland, 2021. Available from: https://forestryandland.gov.scot/what-we-do/biodiversity-and-conservation/habitat-conservation/woodland/deadwood
  2. WWF, 2004. Available from: https://wwfeu.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/deadwoodwithnotes.pdf
  3. Nature Scot, 2016. Scotland’s Nature Blog. Available from: https://scotlandsnature.blog/2016/01/22/deadwood-good-wood/
  4. RSPB, 2021. Available from: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/dead-wood-for-wildlife
  5. Bobiec, A. et al. 2005. The After Life of a Tree. Available from: https://www.wwf.pl/sites/default/files/2020-07/Afterlife%20of%20a%20tree.pdf

For more information about deadwood and how you can get involved, get in touch with the Environment Team at: [email protected]

With thanks to our Environmental Sustainability Board student members, for helping to pull our deadwood post designs together.

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