Deadwood is part of the natural life cycle of the forest. It occurs when trees die and their timber decomposes.
Many, in particular rare species are specialized in this habitat. Fungi, lichen, insects and birds live off or in deadwood, where they find food, shelter and breeding places. Deadwood is therefore an important factor for biological diversity.
In the German forests there are on average 20.6 cubic metres of deadwood per hectare and a total of 224 million cubic metres. Thus, deadwood stock is now 6% of the live timber stock. Almost half of it (49 %) is lying deadwood, 23 % is standing deadwood and 28 % is root stock. This is 18% more dead timber than there was ten years ago. The increase is predominant among standing pieces of conifers.
Deadwood decomposes. A constant supply is needed to preserve deadwood for those species specialized in deadwood. In earlier times, most of the deadwood was removed from the forests and used to supply the population with fuel. Today, sustainable forest management practices actively strive to retain a suitable amount of deadwood to protect biological diversitity.
Annually, about one cubic metre of timber is needed to lastingly preserve a deadwood stock of 20 cubic metres per hectare (Kroiher, Franz; Oehmichen, Katja (2010): Das Potenzial der Totholzakkumulation im deutschen Wald. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Forstwesen = Journal forestier suisse, Band 161, Heft 5, Seiten 171-180).