A habitat is the place where a plant or animal gets all the things it needs to survive, including food, water, shelter, and space for having young. Some habitats are huge and others are tiny. For example, a lion’s habitat may be an enormous grassland, while an insect’s habitat may be a single plant.
Trees are important habitats for many plants and animals. For some organisms, a tree may be just part of their habitat, and for others, a tree may be their entire habitat. A squirrel may come to an oak tree for acorns to eat, as well as depending on other trees and plants for food and nesting. But a patch of moss on the oak tree gets everything it needs right on that tree.
Even standing dead trees (snags) provide habitat for a number of different species. Tree frogs and beetles live under a snag’s bark, while woodpeckers and other birds feed on the insects that live on snags. Chickadees nest in holes created by woodpeckers. Squirrels and deer mice store food in the holes.
Dead trees also contain small insects, bacteria, fungi (FUN-ji), and other organisms that eat the dead and decaying plant matter. These decomposers are very important for any ecosystem because they recycle nutrients from the tree so that other trees and plants can use them. Without decomposers, trees and other plants would not get essential nutrients, and dead matter and waste would pile up.
- What animals or plants use living trees as part or all of their habitat? Name at least three different ones.
- What kinds of organisms use snags as their habitat?
- What important role do decomposers play in ecosystems?