Sunday, July 19, 2009

The value of dead wood in orchards

One of the most interesting aspects of the two orchards is the abundance of standing and fallen dead wood- a nationally scarce habitat important for many rare insects, especially beetles. For example there are apparently around 700 species of saproxylic beetle found in mainland Britain. It will be exciting to see what turns up...

Piles of old prunings at the base of many trees combined with cavities provide a range of rotting wood habitats.

The somewhat tragic end to a vast apple tree's life in the 1940s orchard. Its all about allowing these fallen giants to decay gracefully.

Whole standing-dead trees. There are two of these in the 1940s orchard (another can be just seen behind the one in the foreground of this photo). These are particularly valuable as the wood rots from the inside out, providing a range of stages of decomposition. The rotting of this wood is facilitated by fungi and various micro-organisms that convert the wood into substances that can be digested by a range of insect species, since very few insects can actually digest dead woody tissues directly.

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