Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Old, large, living trees must be left standing to protect nesting animals, study shows

Date:
June 16, 2011
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
Old trees must be protected to save the homes of more than 1,000 different bird and mammal species who nest, says a new study. Most animals can't carve out their own tree holes and rely on holes already formed. The study found that outside of North America, most animals nest in tree holes formed by damage and decay, a process that can take several centuries.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).
Credit: © Steve Byland / Fotolia

Old trees must be protected to save the homes of more than 1,000 different bird and mammal species who nest, says a new study from the University of British Columbia. Most animals can't carve out their own tree holes and rely on holes already formed. The study found that outside of North America, most animals nest in tree holes formed by damage and decay, a process that can take several centuries.

The study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, examined the holes birds and mammals were using for nesting around the world. The research team, led by Kathy Martin, a professor in the Faculty of Forestry at UBC, wanted to find out how the holes were created and which species were using them.

In forests, tree holes are created either quickly by woodpeckers or more slowly as trees age and begin to decay. Birds like owls, songbirds and parrots, and mammals like flying squirrels and opossums, make homes in the holes of trees because they offer safe environments for sleeping, reproduction and raising young. Insects, snakes and amphibians will also make use of tree cavities.

Martin and her research team found that on most continents -- South America, Europe, Asia and Australia -- more than 75 per cent of the holes used by birds and mammals were created by damage and decay.

"When wildlife depends on decay-formed cavities, they are relying on large living trees," says Martin, also a senior research scientist with Environment Canada. "Most trees have to be more than 100 years old before decay cavities begin to form and often several centuries old before large cavities or many cavities develop in one tree."

In North America, the team found very different results -- woodpeckers make up to 99 per cent of the cavities used by birds and mammals.

Worldwide, tree holes are in short supply and many efforts to protect the animals living in these holes have been focused on protecting woodpeckers because it was presumed that they make most of the holes.

"Most forest policies help protect younger trees but promote the harvest of older, larger, living trees -- the very trees needed by cavity-nesting animals," says Martin.

The researchers monitored 2,805 tree holes in Canada, Poland and Argentina between 1995 and 2010. They identified how the holes were formed and every year checked to see if they were still usable.

"Some of the tree cavities in Canada were used 17 times in 13 years by up to five different species," says Martin. "One tree cavity can sustain a lot of wildlife over its lifetime."

Martin and her research team found that although woodpeckers live in Argentina and Poland and make good quality holes, holes formed from decay were used more extensively outside of North America because they last much longer.

In Argentina, woodpecker holes would last only about two years, while those made by decay could be used as homes for 25 years. In Poland, the differences were less dramatic: the woodpecker-formed holes survived for six years and decay-formed holes for 13 years. In Canada, where animals nest in woodpecker holes, all holes last the same length of time, about 14 years after they are created.

"The value of these large living trees needs to be recognized and we need to ensure that a supply of these trees is retained especially in tropical forest systems where decay-formed tree holes last for many years and support a lot of wildlife."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kristina L Cockle, Kathy Martin, Tomasz Wesołowski. Woodpeckers, decay, and the future of cavity-nesting vertebrate communities worldwide. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2011; 110531072704016 DOI: 10.1890/110013

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Old, large, living trees must be left standing to protect nesting animals, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616121908.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2011, June 16). Old, large, living trees must be left standing to protect nesting animals, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616121908.htm
University of British Columbia. "Old, large, living trees must be left standing to protect nesting animals, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616121908.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

AFP (Oct. 2, 2014) — The turtles and Dolphins of Pakistan's Indus river - both protected by law - are in a fight for their survival as man's activities threatens their futures. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

AP (Oct. 2, 2014) — Educators and farmers are clinging to a tradition aimed at giving farmers much-needed help in getting potatoes out of the fields and into storage before the ground freezes in the nation's northeast corner. (Oct. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Attacking Superbugs

Attacking Superbugs

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — Two weapons hospitals can use to attack superbugs. Scientists in Ireland created a new gel resistant to superbugs, and a robot that can disinfect a room in minutes. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins