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What's the deal with all the Dead Wood?

Whether you been to Gunnersbury Park many times, or just the once, you may have come across Dead Wood on your walk. But why is it there? Why has it been left? Head Gardener, Chris Ellis explains all.

Dead and decaying wood can have negative connotations. People may see rotting logs or broken branches and think that the woodland is unhealthy or dangerous. In actual fact, the value to ecosystem health is enormous.

Decaying wood is a hive of activity, food and home to a plethora of fungi, thousands of invertebrate species, and even birds and mammals, so really Dead Wood is far from dead! Trees are just as important to the ecosystem when they are dead and allowed to rot naturally, so becoming new and highly diverse habitats for the whole plant and animal community. Our tress support mosses, ferns, lichen and a host of fungi.

One of the most important insects associated with dead, decomposing wood are beetles, especially our native stag beetles. Beetles love dead wood and can smell out suitable decomposing wood to lay their eggs into with their antennae. When the eggs hatch they eat their way through the decomposing wood along with thousands of other beetle larva on the same dead tree.

The ecology and biodiversity of dead, decomposing wood is very complex and varies enormously, depending on the age and also the species of the tree it came from, e.g. a dead oak will have a very different ecosystem than a dead pine tree. Whether the wood is laying on the ground or standing tall as a dead monolith or whether it in sunny or shady conditions, all dictate the diversity and ecology of the tree. Young dead wood will still retain moisture and sappy sugars, while old wood will be drier. Standing dead trucks or monoliths provide essential habitat for bat and wild bees, especially certain species of solitary bees.

Dead Wood has more life and diversity than when it was actually alive!

So keep an eye out for Dead Wood when you next visit Gunnersbury Park and remember all the fantastic reasons why it's been left!


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