Woodland Nature Study: Management of Dead Wood


We know, from all the walking we have done through the woodlands close to us, that this ecosystem was very closely managed.  There are groups of volunteers (who we may join over the summer), who work tirelessly to create a beautiful woodland habitat.  As we go about our study, we intend to keep a close eye out for measures they take to increase the wildlife variety and also to increase the different wildlife populations.

One method we have noticed occurred atop of the dead wood tree we were studying:

dead wood tree, nature study

Dead wood can be found throughout the wood, coming from cut and fallen tree trunks and branches.  In the main, these are left as they are and as close as possible to the parent tree.  They are only moved if they lie across a path impeding access or for safety reasons.  The rangers attempt to keep all sorts of dead and decaying wood on the site, which they hope will increase biodiversity.

The decay, which inevitably occurs in both standing dead wood (such as the trunk we are studying above) and lying dead wood (fallen trees, logs and branches), support specialised and rare species of plants and animals, which often rely on the decaying wood for one or more stages of their life cycle.

At the top of our standing dead wood it was clear that the rangers had been busy with their saws:


This tree has been deliberately damaged using ‘coronet cuts’.  Such a cut is intended to mimic the natural breakage of branches and splintering in various planes (linear, radial and circumferential). It is hoped that by copying nature early fungal infection and decay will occur, creating microhabitats that are colonised by microorganisms and succession species:


As we continued to study the dead wood, we were fascinated to find what we thought was a mouse fetus tucked away in one of the naturally formed crevices.  We were of course saddened by this, but also a little bit excited by our unusual find:


That was, until we removed it for further inspection.  Not really thinking it through (for example it was winter and mice would be hibernating, and absolutely would not be giving birth in December!), we fished it out, hoping to have a better look and found it was nothing more than a stone with markings which remarkably resembled veins!

I know, I don’t really improve any, do I?!


  1. This is so fascinating, I was wondering how you never seem board by this trek through the same woods. And yet after reading this post, I can see you are busy observing and educating your children. Very very cool! Thanks for sharing! (thinking I need to do this next year…hmmm )

  2. I don’t think I’ll look at dead wood the same way again. And as for your mouse, I was thinking it was going to spring to life…thank goodness it was just a stone. You are very brave. 🙂

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