Is a clean forest a good forest?
Trails to access woodlands to enjoy them, manage, and create fire breaks is a normal and generally low disturbance activity. Clearing away trees, shrubs, and debris allow the trails to be accessible. What about the rest of the forest? Do we look around at it and think it needs cleaning up?
Dead trees, limbs, snag trees, piles of leaves, it makes the OCD clean freak want to sprint to get the rake, chainsaw, and trailer. These provide benefits not only to wildlife, but the soil that your forest is growing in. The cover shelters the soil from erosion, raindrop impact, evaporation and provides homes and food for organisms. Dead trees, branches, leaves, and limbs are food sources for many fungi which help to decompose these items (aka a free cleaning service). As they provide this cleaning service, it breaks down the vegetation into nutrients and organic matter that are then cycled back into the forest soil to continue to feed your forest.
What happens when we remove that material to make it neat and tidy? We’re removing vast amounts of carbon-the building blocks of life. This reduces what we can be providing our soil and the opportunity to sequester carbon. We also will be reducing the population of soil organisms by reducing the habitat and food provided. Keeping your kitchen and bathroom tidy are important for your health and a better use of time!