Parrot and fungi
Photos: G. B. Baker, K. Thomas
In autumn and winter, when it's rainy, dark and cold outside, many Australians settle down in front of an open fire or wood heater for warmth. People living in the country often rely on wood as the only practical way to heat their homes.
Most dead wood collected to fuel open fires or wood heaters is taken from private property, and some is bought from wood merchants. Logs are taken from the ground, or dead trees are chopped down.
What people often don't know, is that collecting logs for firewood can harm animals, birds and other creatures living and feeding inside. Hollow logs provide a safe and warm place for animals to hide in and raise families. Birds make nests in hollow trees. Insects, like the stag beetle, feed on dead wood to survive. Many birds, reptiles and mammals in turn need to eat insects for their survival. Sadly, not enough people know that logs have life inside, meaning many types of animals and plants are disappearing when their homes are burnt for firewood.
Firewood and birds
A small bat, possum and gecko
Photos: G. B. Baker
Parrots, kookaburras, cockatoos and owls all nest in tree hollows. Some of these birds, like the brightly colored Superb Parrot, the Swift Parrot and the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo, are threatened species, meaning they're in danger of becoming extinct. The loss of so many hollow trees taken for firewood makes it hard for birds to breed and to find food. 21 bird species are threatened by people collecting firewood.
Firewood and mammals
Possums, gliders and bats, like birds, use hollow trees for shelter and food. These dead logs, whether still standing or fallen to the ground, provide a place where these mammals can raise families and find food.
Firewood and reptiles and amphibians
The carpet python, which can't harm you, is an impressive snake that uses hollow logs for shelter. The broad-headed snake, a threatened species, also lives in hollow logs, while the Gehyra gecko forages among dead logs for insects. The survival of these reptiles, and amphibians like frogs and salamanders living on land and in water, is badly affected by people removing wood from their habitat.
Firewood and invertebrates (insects without backbones)
We all know termites and borers eat dead wood but many other invertebrates also rely on dead wood to survive. Invertebrates, like the stag beetle, help keep the soil healthy. To do this, they need to eat dead wood. These insects are also breakfast, lunch and dinner for many of your favourite birds, reptiles and mammals.
Firewood and fungi
Fungi include the colorful mushrooms and toadstools you've probably seen when walking in the forest or woodland. Although the word itself is pretty gross, you could say fungi work like magic, turning nutrients in dead wood into a kind of energy that living trees feed on. By taking dead wood, you take the energy that makes the soil healthy and helps trees grow.
- Think of logs as homes for animals and birds.
- Look for thin pieces of wood, instead of fat logs that may form hollows if left to decay.
- Leave hollow logs alone, whether they're standing or lying on the ground.
- If you take dead wood from your backyard, farm or other spot, leave some behind - if everyone takes wood there won't be any left.
- If you take wood, plant a tree to replace it.
- Recycle - if your neighbour cuts down a tree, ask if you can use the wood.