A practical solution for habitat creation.

I had a discussion with a friend of mine recently that made me think.  We talked about the loss of habitat in the Australian environment and what could be done to support species under pressure.  We talked about the obvious solutions – less deforestation and more planting of trees.  We agreed that solutions aimed at addressing the problem were often complicated, time contingent and politically charged. We agreed that one of the most important requirements for many of our native species is the availability of tree hollows in which to reproduce, take refuge and to shelter within during the day.

More than 300 species use tree hollows in Australia.  With natural hollows formed by the process of natural decay and failure within a tree, it can take more than 120 years for one of these hollows to form.  Dead and dying trees are often removed from the landscape; as are trees that are yet to reach the age required to develop these suitable hollows.  What if we could bypass this long drawn out natural process and actually create tree hollows now in some of our existing trees in parks and gardens?

Well, we can and they are not nestboxes attached to the sides of trees. Arborists (Tree Surgeons) have figured out how to create artificial hollows within the live tree itself which has the potential to revolutionise our way of thinking and reverse the devastating effect limited hollow availability has on species distribution and abundance in our landscape.  Creating artificial hollows that look (and are) real provide better camoflague for animals, generate more natural microclimate conditions and are cheaper and more permanent than nestboxes.  These artificial hollows can be created within just about any tree and developed for just about any target animal species.  Let me give you a pictographic tutorial on how it’s done.

Method 1 – Trunk hollows

The procedure for making habitat hollows in vertical tree stumps is as follows:

Method 2 – Branch Hollows

The procedure for creating hollows in tree branches is as follows:

I think that this is an easy, creative and practical solution to provide more habitat for our native species.  These methods can be applied to street and amenity trees, trees in parks and gardens, on farms, in private residences and in state forest and national parks.   

What do you think?

More information can be obtained from the Victorian Tree Industry Association website – http://vtio.org.au/

All images and information sourced from –  http://vtio.org.au/Content/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Vtio_Habitat_Paper_SEPT_2010.pdf





8 Responses to “A practical solution for habitat creation.”

  1. Jesse Bodle says:

    Great post Kristy, looks like the arborists are getting quite creative with the habitat hollows (method 1) very skilled. On a side note do you have any idea how many animals will be effected by the recent NSW fires? I hate to think how many animals have lost their lives and homes 🙁

  2. karenm says:

    That is so amazing! thank you for telling me about this. I recently found out that DEPI (then DSE) was cutting down large (i.e. hollow bearing trees) before doing some of their crazy amounts of control burning because these trees provided greater risk to the fire-fighters and might fall on them. This made me really angry, they shouldn’t be burning 5% of the state a year, and they shouldn’t be destroying the, arguably, most important trees! maybe someone should suggest they need to go back and put some of these nest-holes back in for the animals!

  3. ccroft says:

    I think this is a great idea!! hoping to see them around soon!!

  4. kpenrose says:

    Great to hear! You can modify the size of the hollow entrance to target certain species and exclude others. I’d be interested to hear how it goes!:-)

  5. bjrule says:

    Great post, I will definitely be looking up at trees in the future hoping to see these things out there, thankyou

  6. kpenrose says:

    I know, right! It’s really captured my imagination too. When I first heard about this I thought – ‘this is amazing’ and ‘why isn’t this being done more extensively’ and ‘I need to blog this and share the word’! An Arborists wages would be the only monetary cost in doing this and if a council arborist was up a tree anyway, then it wouldn’t work out to be any extra cost to anyone. Trees are pretty resilient and scar tissue forms around the cut areas to heal and protect the tree so they can come back well from something like this. Spread the word! 🙂

  7. Lucy says:

    Hey that’s so interesting! I am actually going to give that a go. I bought quite a few of nestboxes from La Trobe to put up around my farm, but I am dubious as to their success because of the paint and human smell. This may be more successful because it is more natural. Great post!

  8. Meagan Lane says:

    This is amazing! Why I have I never heard of this! Thank you for sharing such a cool piece of conservation science. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the cost of something like this? And are there any negative consequences for the tree? As tree hollows tend to form in old dying trees what is the consequence if any to cutting hollows into young trees?
    Very cool post 🙂