The Importance of ‘Habitat Trees’

The importance of habitat trees (snags) in the urban environment is something I rarely get asked about but am always trying to encourage property owners to consider. The value of keeping a tree standing as long as possible is vital to many of our local species. I realize this is not always possible given the proximity of houses, fences, etc plus sometimes the thought of having a half dead tree in the yard is not always an easy sell. However, in the right setting, maintaining a habitat snag can be very benificial to both the animals that use it and the people who get to see nature at work.

Standing dead trees provide an amazing range of microhabitats. Deadwood is crucial to many insects, invertebretes, fungi, lichens, and mosses. Cavity-nesting birds such as nuthatches, swallows, wood ducks, owls and wood peckers as well as bats make their homes in snags. The majority of cavity-nesting birds are insectivorous, meaning that they feed off the insects that are residing in the snag. Because they make up a large proportion of the forest-and urban forest dwelling bird population, they play an important role in the control of insect pests.

Believe it or not, but there is actually more life and diversity in a dead tree than in a living one. Nearly every part of the dead tree is used by wildlife in every stage of decay. Keeping snags in urban settings is crucial for these species survival.

When possible, we try to leave some limbs on the trunk and rough up the top to make it look natural. If requested, we will also burrow a few holes in the trunk to speed up the natural process.

Creating snags in a neighborhood greenbelt

Maple snag in a wooded area

Lukens Tree Preservation

A certified member of the International Society of Arboriculture.

ISA Certified Member