Monday, October 03, 2005


I have to admit that one of my favourite parts of the Sanctuary is the dark forest in the shadow of Michener Hill. Its almost mountain-like feel is a reminder that Red Deer exists in the middle of a real traffic jam of plant communities. In a fairly small area you can find everything from marsh and grassland to full spruce forest.

Our Sanctuary forest contains a fair amount of deadwood, and visitors may occasionally wonder why we don't clear up the mess of fallen trees or at least remove the standing snags.

The fact is that there is a lot of natural recycle value in those dead trees. While standing, they provide homes and feeding spots for all kinds of animal populations; insect, mammal, and avian. Imagine a forest without chickadee nests or woodpecker foraging holes. I don't think it would be nearly as interesting.

Once a tree falls (or often even before), the insects, fungi, and mosses really get to work. As they help break the tree down, its component nutrients are gradually returned to the soil and help provide fertilizer for new plants coming up. If the dead trees were continually removed instead of being allowed to rot naturally, we would eventually end up with sterile, nutrient-poor soil that wouldn't be good for much of anything.

Just a little something to think about the next time you're looking at a mossy log. That's not waste -- it's recycling at its finest.

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