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Alive or dead, we need more of these old, aged, habitat trees

There is a school of thought that claims humans as being the superior species.  The species that knows best, and therefore has the right to decide what will or won’t live or even exist, in the name of human dominance.  This includes Mother Earth herself and for these people nothing will stand in the way of their machanised technology, built to manipulate and reshape nature in their own image. For these people a dead tree, is a useless tree, of no value and therefore best removed.

Another school of thought claims that we are a part of nature. Far from being the superior species, we are but one of many millions.  For them, we are at our best, when we work with nature,  taking our cues from the many species who have experiences that can teach us how to live well by doing good within a socio-ecological framework. For these people trees are critical partners in building resilience and stability – in physical and psychological terms. Dead trees have an important role to play.  

Munibung Hill is home to a wide variety of tree species within which there is a proportion of dead and old trees providing essential habitat for native animals needing their specific qualities, primarily hollows.  If there was to be a hierarchy of trees then these ‘old-age’ trees would most probably be at the top of the list, as noted in the article referenced below … 

In Land for Wildlife – The Value of Habitat Trees, the authors note that: Large old trees and standing dead trees are unique and irreplaceable features of our landscapes. Termed ‘habitat trees’, they provide numerous living places and other resources for many kinds of animals and plants. This Note discusses the value of habitat trees and practical steps that can be taken to preserve them. Habitat trees have lots of hollows, cracks and crevices of various sizes, where animals may live, breed or shelter. Old and dead trees are an essential part of all native forests and can be referred to as ‘nature’s community dwellings’ as they provide an important resource to wildlife 24 hours a day.

Dead trees: Dead trees with hollows are just as important for wildlife as live ones. Often viewed as a source of firewood, the loss of dead trees from some areas has had a significant impact on wildlife. Old trees may stand for 50 years or more after death and continue to function effectively as habitat trees. When a tree dies, new living spaces are formed as cracks develop and the bark loosens. Before removing dead wood from your property, consider its values to wildlife and the environment.

Old trees: Old trees are irreplaceable with many of the ones alive today being at least 200-800 years old. Such trees represent the vestiges of once-intact ecosystems and provide some sense of what the landscape was like before European arrival. Trees planted today will need two centuries or more before they attain a similar form and position in the landscape. However, estimates of rural tree decline suggest that most large trees on agricultural land – and many within urban settings as well – will die within 100 years, unless actions are taken now to protect them.

Keep it messy mate – the KIMM principle.  Resist the urge to tidy-up your property so that it looks like a park. Instead, wherever you can, leave old and dead trees along with fallen branches and woody debris so that they can continue to provide an important ecosystem service. Tidying-up removes these important wildlife habitat resources.

What you can do:

  • Retain large old trees – both living and dead.
  • Fence off areas around large old trees to allow regeneration to occur.
  • Retain some fallen woody debris for wildlife.
  • Protect habitat trees before undertaking a prescribed burn by raking around the base of the tree to avoid it burning.
  • Plant suitable trees to provide nesting hollows in the future.
  • Establish timber plots for future firewood and fencing needs.
  • Install nest boxes if your property lacks large old trees (see Land for Wildlife Note A2 – Nest Boxes)

There’s a classic habitat tree in the suburb of Marrackville, Sydney. The celebrated Urban Habitat Tree, has a book to its credit – The Hollow Tree. It is located in Addison Road. 

Here are three further references that may be of interest …
Biodiversity Conservation Trust, Guideline for Artificial Hollows. For private land conservation agreements | August 2020.
Experimenting with artificial hollows how to maximise learning while carving holes in trees.
Saving Our Trees Marrickville municipality. Community Tree Watch – working to protect healthy public trees in Marrickville municipality from inappropriate removal.