Dead wood habitat project
Since 2007, I have been working with my colleague David Hurst on a new method for the rapid assessment of dead wood habitat. Dead wood is well known as an important habitat for a diverse range of invertebrate species and as such is of great conservation value. Indeed, some 1800 British species are known to be dependant on wood decay processes (Alexander 2002). A large proportion of these are local or rare, and many are in decline in Britain and further afield (Kirby 2001) with few sites showing continuity of large volumes of dead wood, especially given woodland management’s tendency to ‘tidy up’ dead wood and ‘unsound’ trees (Fry & Lonsdale 1991). The three key factors in assessing dead wood habitat (DWH) are considered to be Diversity, Volume and Continuity.
Why was this methodology developed?
- Although known to be of considerable ecological importance, DWH is under-recorded.
- The amount and quality of DWH needed to support a diverse invertebrate fauna is widely and greatly underestimated.
- There was no standard method for assessing DWH. To survey the invertebrate fauna directly is time-consuming, requires considerable specialist expertise, and is often prohibitively expensive. It is limited to certain times of year and may be undesirably destructive to the habitat. The approach where fallen timber volume is calculated using line transects misses most dead wood and is felt to be of limited practical value.
The standard recording form is shown below and includes the dead wood categories used as well as the assessment scoring scheme.
We are also seeking funding to produce a nationally usable handbook for this method - if you can help, please do get in touch.
- Alexander, K.N.A. (2002). The invertebrates of living and decaying timber in Britain. A provisional annotated checklist. English Nature Research Reports 467. English Nature, Peterborough.
- Fry, R & Lonsdale, D. (1991). Habitat Conservation for Insects – a neglected green issue. Amateur Entomologists’ Society, Middlesex.
- Kirby, P. (2001). Habitat Management for Invertebrates: a practical handbook (2nd edition). RSPB, Sandy.
- Hubble, D.S. & Hurst, D.T. (2007). Rapid dead wood habitat assessment. In Practice 56: 4-6.
- Hubble, D. & Hurst, D. (2007). A new dead wood habitat survey method. British Wildlife 18 (5): 324.
- Hubble, D. & Hurst, D. (2008). Rapid dead wood habitat assessment. Quarterly Journal of Forestry 102 (1): 29-34.
- Hubble, D. & Hurst, D. (2008). Leave them where they lie. Tree News Spring/Summer 2008: 25-26.