The importance of dead trees and debris

Summer is well and truly here and bushfire season has arrived. Fire mitigation works such as brush cutting and vegetation trimming around property boundaries, and pruning and rotary hoeing of firebreaks, have been carried out across the corridor.

Dead trees, debris and leaf litter however play a very important role in our ecosystem, which is why you will see them left in place across the corridor. They provide much-needed habitat for wildlife, including roosting, breeding and nesting sites. Decomposing dead matter also maintains the nutrient cycle that is essential for plant growth.

A dead tree providing crucial roosting habitat for Forest Red-tailed black cockatoos. Photo credit Colin Leonhardt.

Who benefits from dead trees, leaf litter and debris?

Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, fungi, bacteria, soil and plants all benefit from dead trees and debris – basically the entire ecosystem. A few dead branches and debris are actually a good ecosystem health indicator in the natural environment!

What do you see below? A dead shrub? A fire hazard? Well, look a little closer (hint, hint – look in the bottom right quarter!)

A dead Jacksonia shrub in the corridor, providing important habitat.

It’s a native Western Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor) using this dead Jacksonia shrub as camouflage while soaking up some sunshine. He blends in so well from a distance, you have to look really hard to find him, which keeps him safe from predators!  

A Western Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor) in a dead Jacksonia shrub in the Malvolio bushland.

What happens if leaf-litter and debris is removed form the natural environment?

If this crucial habitat is removed, the nutrient cycle which plants rely on for healthy growth is interrupted, animals lose food and shelter and ecosystem health degrades

If we avoid removing naturally occurring dead trees, leaf-litter and debris from the environment, it will help maintain a happy and healthy ecosystem for our native plants and wildlife to thrive in.

So next time you see a dead tree or shrub on your walk through the corridor, look a little closer and see what you can discover!