Thermal Profiles of Chainsaw Hollows and Natural Hollows during Extreme Heat Events

Biology (Basel). 2023 Feb 24;12(3):361. doi: 10.3390/biology12030361.


Loss of hollow-bearing trees threatens many hollow-dependent wildlife. To mitigate this process, artificial chainsaw-carved hollows (CHs) are often created in dead trees, yet little is known about their thermal profiles. We measured temperatures inside 13 natural hollows (8 live and 5 dead trees) and 45 CHs (5 live and 40 dead trees) in the central west of NSW, Australia, over the course of 2 summers. Maximum temperatures and daily temperature ranges within natural hollows and artificial hollows were similar in 2017-2018. Hollow temperatures were lower in thicker-walled hollows than in thinner-walled hollows. During the January 2019 heatwave, temperatures inside CHs in dead trees exceeded 4-35 °C higher than the upper limit of the thermal neutral zone of sugar gliders-for 6.2 consecutive days (range 0-9 days). CHs in dead trees provided little buffering from thermal extremes; when air temperatures peaked at 44.6 °C, CHs in dead trees were on average 2.4 °C cooler than ambient (range: 5.5 °C cooler to 1.0 °C hotter than ambient). These results show that CHs created in dead trees may not provide suitable thermal conditions for hollow-dependent marsupials during summer heatwaves. Retention of large live trees, coupled with revegetation, is crucial for conserving hollow-dependent fauna in agricultural landscapes.

Keywords: artificial hollow; heat stress; heatwave; marsupial; thermal extremes; upper critical temperature.

Grants and funding

This research was funded by grants from Central Tablelands Local Land Services through funding from Catchment Action NSW and the Wettenhall Environment Trust.