Trees as habitats

Trees are often seen as a unit of one species, while forests as a population of species. In fact, trees, particularly mature trunks, are habitats of many species of living organisms. With their trunks, crowns, fruit and branches they provide living conditions for many creatures.

Habitat trees can be defined as standing live or dead trees providing microhabitats such as cavities, bark pockets, branches and roots – inhabited by animals, plants and fungi. These microhabitats are places where organisms live, eat and breed.

These habitats are usually formed naturally on trees. Cavities are formed naturally, when a large branch breaks and makes a hole in the trunk or they can be formed by the activities of some animals, such as woodpeckers, insects or worms.

Tree bark and bark pockets are important microhabitats for many invertebrate, particularly insects and their larvae. In the process of peeling and breaking, the bark makes space for many insects to inhabit the tree and feed or breed there.

There are living organisms whose lives are closely linked to trees. Many insect species can be found exclusively on and near tree trunks, while some types of fungi and lichen grow only on living or dead trees.

The health of a forest is measured by the population in all layers and parts, so tree microhabitats are important for maintaining a stable ecosystem.

Large quantities of dry trees and large density of old trees with microhabitats are the typical elements of natural forests, particularly in more mature phases. That is why it is important for the old, virgin and natural forests to be properly maintained and protected. In managed forests, even those that are managed in the most natural way possible, there are rarely any microhabitats or none at all. That is why the preservation of existing and future microhabitats in trees is an important aspect that needs to be taken into consideration for forest management.

The attention paid to tree microhabitats will help to maintain and increase the value of the habitat for biodiversity in managed forests too. As part of the Nature Conservation Programme, last autumn we organised field lectures about dead wood management, when it was concluded that there is no catalogue for identification of microhabitats in the country.

For this purpose we translated and adapted the catalogue of tree microhabitats, which is translated in 17 languages, now including Macedonian.

This is an activity of the Nature Conservation Programme in North Macedonia (NCP) – phase 2, project of the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC), coordinated by Farmahem – Skopje, as part of the component for cooperation between the Hans Em Faculty of Forest Sciences, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Engineering in Skopje and the Bern University of Applied Sciences.

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