While dead trees don’t provide the same benefits as live ones, they still perform several important services.
First, a dead tree continues to sequester carbon. When a dead tree is cut down and fed into a wood chipper, the carbon that it stored over decades is rapidly released into the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming. Left in place, the tree will slowly release its carbon to the soil, another safe storage location.
Dead trees also serve as important habitat elements. Some species, like woodpeckers, require standing dead trees to complete their life cycles. When dead trees are removed from suburban yards and even from relatively-wild parks, these species suffer.
Dead trees are not a significant hazard. In a year, about 30 Americans – or one in ten million – are killed by falling trees or branches. This is equal to the number of Americans who are killed when their own furniture falls on them, and would be lower if not for the very high rate of fatal accidents among people who cut down trees for a living.