Why Logs Are Important

While its life may be over, this log will play an invaluable
role ensuring the continued health of the ecosystem. 

When you leave logs on your property, you’re not trashing up the place. On the contrary: You start a life cycle fueled by the decomposing wood. An ark of plants, fungi, and animals rely upon logs as a food source and a place to live. Here are just a few natural services provided by logs and their attendant wildlife:

● Decomposing logs enrich the soil and provide “nurse logs” on which tree saplings and other plants take root.

● A grouping of logs also may shelter young sapling trees from heavy browsing by deer and livestock.

● Decomposers found on or in logs (fungi, invertebrates, etc.) provide important services, including food for amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, as well as predatory invertebrates.

● Logs provide important shelter to predators that control insect and rodent numbers.

● Logs provide denning sites for many mammals, including foxes, martens, bobcats, and bears.

● Logs that fall into rivers, streams, and wetlands provide important habitat for trout, bass, turtles, and a wide variety of other aquatic species, including the fishes’ favored prey.

● In shady areas, logs retain moisture, creating a microhabitat for salamanders and other creatures that may not find shelter elsewhere.

● Logs provide unique structures that wildlife use. For example, male ruffed grouse perform their springtime drumming displays atop logs, which provide good resonance for their wing-ruffling performances.

In most cases dead wood will 
not add to the risk of wildfire. 

Dead Wood and Fire

When incorporating logs, snags, and brushpiles into your forest plan, you may worry about the fire risk posed by these features. Do you live in a particularly fire-prone area? If so, how can you mitigate potential risks while enhancing wildlife habitat? Do logs pose a significant fire risk? Many logs, especially those in shady forest, retain moisture as they decompose. A few snags, logs, or brushpiles scattered in strategic locations (away from homes and other structures) cover small areas within the forest, yet they attract a disproportionate variety of wildlife. In most cases, adding these features will not significantly increase wild fire risk. If you have concerns, contact local forestry or agricultural extension offices for their insight on the local fire risk situation in your area.

On the flip side of this issue, if you conduct prescribed burns on your property, you should also keep in mind the location of snags, logs, and brushpiles. Will your burn destroy these valuable elements, or create some new ones?
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