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Is deadwood good for nature?

Friday, 1st June 2018

Deadwood provides food, shelter and a place to breed for nature.
When you next go for a walk in your local wood or park spare a thought for the tiny animals that live in a microhabitat. Although a dead log lying on the ground may look dull and lifeless to us - for tiny bugs they provide all that’s required for life: food, shelter from prey, a place to breed and – of course – moisture for rehydration.
Deadwood is good

The fallen log regulates temperature and moisture even though the weather above is continuously changing making it the natural home for small mammals, plants, fungi, beetles, and amphibians. We have an astonishing 900 species of invertebrates in the UK that live in, on or under deadwood.

So if you decide to explore a log pile look out for these creatures that may live underneath:

Millipedes and centipedes can often be confused as they look similar, but are quite different in body shape and lifestyle. Centipedes have a flat body with one pair of legs per body segment but millipedes have a round body and have two pairs of legs per body segment. A millipede will mostly eat dead vegetation but a centipede is a predator and will chase and eventually capture its prey.
 
Centipedes

Isopoda is a group of aquatic animals that woodlice are a member of. They breathe through gills and use the dampness under logs to prevent their gills from drying out. They are busy under logs eating dead plants, therefore recycling nutrients in decaying vegetation and aiding biodiversity.
 
Woodlice

During the night slugs will crawl from under a fallen log to seek out vegetation and lichen. Slugs use deadwood and logs to overwinter their eggs, which are tiny, white and round. These then hatch out in the spring.
 
Slug

Common toads vary in colour from a very dark brown almost black to green or sandy coloured. All of them are broad and squat. Most have warts across their back but be careful if you hold one as they secrete a substance from their back which can be an irritant.
 
Toad

Next time you’re walking through a wood why not stop and take a moment to gently lift a log and see what’s under it. Observe first before you lift the log – make sure it’s not being used by bees or wasps first! Once the logs lifted or rolled to one side, see what’s using it as shelter…. When you’re done, try to replace the log exactly where you found it, and leave the area as undisturbed as possible. Why not replicate this in your own garden? A pile of deadwood, logs and twigs tucked away in a corner would be seen as welcome habitat for nature’s wonderful invertebrates.

Enjoy being a nature detective, wherever you are in the countryside or your wildlife garden.

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